Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Talismanic Oliech carries hopes and expectations of a nation

Harambee Stars skipper Dennis Oliech (second right) leads team mates in training at the Coty Stadium in Nairobi on Tuesday. The squad arrived in a Lagos Wednesday ahead of this Saturday’s clash with Super Eagles in the port coty of Calabar. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO

Harambee Stars skipper Dennis Oliech (second right) leads team mates in training at the Coty Stadium in Nairobi on Tuesday. The squad arrived in a Lagos Wednesday ahead of this Saturday’s clash with Super Eagles in the port coty of Calabar. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO  NATION

By DAVID KWALIMWA dkwalimwa@ke.nationmedia.com

As the national team departed for Nigeria Wednesday, many are still guessing as to what tactics coach Adel Amrouche has planned to employ in Calabar.

If Kenya are to beat the African champions at home, then one player who is likely to engineer such a result is the inspirational skipper Dennis Oliech.

While one does not underrate Oliech’s striking partners - Gor Mahia’s Edwin Lavatsa, KCB’s Jacob Keli as well as new entrant Christian Bwamy - the French-based captain will be central to the team’s performance.

Bwamy, who is based in the Scandinavia, will need to introduce himself to the entire continent in Calabar, when he finally links up with the team directly from his European base as he seeks his first cap for the Stars.

This leaves Oliech, an experienced figure and team captain, as usual, with the main responsibility of finding the goals.

“I expect a tough encounter, they (Nigeria) are not African champions by default. But we are going there to give them a good game, its crucial we get something from this match to bring our qualification campaign back on track” said the AJ Ajaccio forward during an interview with the Daily Nation.

Oliech has in the past almost single-handedly decided Stars’ prospects. He netted the vital goal against the Cape Verde Islands here in Nairobi to assure Kenya of a slot at the 2004 African Nations Cup in Tunisia.

Have slim hopes of advancing

The skilful forward, who likes slicing into scoring positions from the wing, has a knack for turning up in ‘big games’ and influencing the outcome.

During training, Amrouche has deployed Oliech in several positions including as a second striker and on the left hand side of a three-pronged attack.

“Oliech knows what is required of him, he needs to stand up and assist the rest of the team in implementing the game plan. I am confident he will execute this task,” added the team coach Adel Amrouche.

Following a below par start to the 2014 World Cup qualifiers that include a draw and loss at home to Malawi and away to Namibia respectively, Kenya need to avoid defeat in this duel to retain their slim hopes of topping Group F and securing a first ever World Cup berth.

Oliech has hurt the Nigerians before, as he scored first goal during the Super Eagles 3-2 win over the Harambee Stars at Kasarani in 2009. This result ensured the visitors secured the 2010 World Cup slot at the expense of the hosts.

The question is, can the 27-year-old go one better this time round? The Stars squad arrived in Lagos Wednesday, following four-and-half hour flight from Nairobi.

The team is expected to proceed to Calabar later Thursday.

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