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2019 Afcon: Is Migne justified in dropping Were and Ochieng?

Thursday May 16 2019

Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne fields questions from journalists after naming the provisional squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the Goal Project in Kasarani on May 14, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne fields questions from journalists after naming the provisional squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the Goal Project in Kasarani on May 14, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

DAVID KWALIMWA
By DAVID KWALIMWA
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Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne has said he dropped experienced duo Jesse Were and David 'Cheche' Ochieng from his provisional 30-man squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations due to fitness and tactical reasons.

Ochieng has expressed his 'frustration' following the omission, saying that he deserves a chance to feature at the biennial continental showpiece set for Egypt between June 21 and July 19.

Frenchman Migne on Tuesday omitted Were - a dependable striker at Zambian Super League giants Zesco United - from his squad, electing to rely on Masoud Juma as the back up to Michael Olunga and Allan Wanga.

"I know he is the best striker in Zambia but we also have the best striker in Kenya (Allan Wanga) in the list. Today he is not in my list but tomorrow he is there. Maybe it's a good message for him," the tactician explained when quizzed about his decision to drop Were.

The former Republic of Congo coach also dropped AFC Leopards defender Ochieng who has been part of the national team for the past seven years, including in the qualification games of this competition.

Youthful defenders Joseph Okumu and Bernard Ochieng, who are unlikely to kick a ball in Egypt, were called up.

"I am really frustrated by this snub because I genuinely feel I deserved this opportunity (to play at the tournament)," Ochieng told Nation Sport.

"It's painful but then it is up to the coach to decide who goes. I wish the team well. I will work harder. I won't quit. I may say more about this matter someday."

Nation Sport has learnt Harambee Stars technical bench was concerned over Ochieng's lack of playtime during a three-month spell after he quit Sweden's IF Brommapojkarna last December, and when he signed for AFC Leopards in March this year.

With English Premier League top-scorer Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez among the forwards Kenya will be up against in Egypt, Migne stressed on a rearguard that has been competitive for the better part of the last year.

USED SPARINGLY

But how has Migne used the two players in previous matches?

David Ochieng only featured in one of the four qualification matches that Migne was in charge - a cameo appearance after Joash Onyango was sent off in Kenya's historic 1-0 win over Ghana at Kasarani last year. He replaced Eric Johanna on 65 minutes as Onyango's cover in defence where he partnered Musa Mohammed for the remaining 25 minutes.

Ochieng didn't make the Harambee Stars squad for the final qualifier away to Ghana in March but was on the bench in the double-header against Ethiopia. Against Ethiopia, Migne elected to go pair Brian Mandela - who had served his one-match suspension after picking a red card against Sierra Leone in the opening qualifier - with Mohammed in both matches. Kenya drew 0-0 away with the Walya Antelopes before hammering the visitors 3-0 in Nairobi four days later.

Similarly, Migne is said to appreciate Were's attacking exploits, but has voiced concerns over the player's work rate when his team loses possession.

In the four qualification matches Migne was in charge, the Frenchman has started Japan-based Michael Olunga in three, and gave Juma the nod to lead the line in the dead rubber tie away to Ghana in March. Olunga was out with injury while Were didn't make the traveling party altogether.

Were, who has played 26 times for Kenya without scoring, didn't play a part in the four matches Migne was in charge but was on the bench for 90 minutes in their 1-0 win over Ghana in September.

He was not part of the final squad for the three other qualifying matches but played in a friendly match against Malawi at Kasarani in September - where he was withdrawn at half-time for Pistone Mutamba.

With Senegal and Algeria among Kenya's opponents in Egypt, Migne is said to have conceded his team will struggle to possess the ball and therefore prefers lining up with an army that will hustle for everything. Were reportedly doesn't fit the bill.

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