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Kenya, Egypt clash in Alexandria

Thursday November 14 2019

Harambee Stars players huddle together at the centre of the pitch during the post-match penalty session of their African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier against Tanzania at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on August 4, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |

Harambee Stars players huddle together at the centre of the pitch during the post-match penalty session of their African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier against Tanzania at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on August 4, 2019. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

JEFF KINYANJUI
By JEFF KINYANJUI
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Harambee Stars face Egypt in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the Borg El Arab Stadium in Alexandria, Thursday evening from 7pm.

The team finalised its training Wednesday evening with a full house, save for striker John Avire.

The forward has been at the centre of a transfer tussle between Sofapaka and Egyptian side Tanta SC, with the latter refusing to release him to the national team as they did not receive an official request letter from Football Kenya Federation (FKF). However, the federation argues they could not ask for the same from Tanta as Avire is technically, still a Sofapaka player.

Former Tusker striker Boniface Muchiri, now based in the USA, was the latest foreign-based player to join camp on Wednesday.

Johanna Omolo (Belgium), Victor Wanyama (England), Michael Olunga (Japan), Eric Johanna, Eric Ouma, Joseph Okumu (Sweden), Harun Shakava (Zambia), Patrick Matasi (Ethiopia) and Cliff Nyakeya (Egypt) are all in Harambee Stars squad that is eager to register a positive result Thursday evening.

Kenya is yet to register a win after the 2019 Afcon having played to a 1-1 draw with Uganda Cranes in August and lost to Mozambique by a solitary goal in September, both friendly matches played in Nairobi under coach Francis Kimanzi, who replaced Frenchman Sebastien Migne.

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Egypt, meanwhile will be without arguably their biggest star Mohamed Salah, who is nursing a minor ankle injury and experienced playmaker Abdullah El Said, the latter a victim of a war of words between Pharaohs coach Hossam El Badry and Pyramids FC, who refused to release players to the national team.

The tactician replaced Javier Aguirre, who was sacked in July after a disappointing performance at the 2019 Afcon. Since coming in, El Badry has been in charge as the team registered identical 1-0 wins over Botswana and Liberia in friendly matches.

Midfielder Hamdy Fathi, who scored in both friendly matches, will also miss as he is out for a while after picking a bad knee injury.

Midfielder Johanna Omolo, who is making a return to the Harambee Stars team after a thigh injury that kept him out of the last two friendlies, says the team is ready for the battle.

“Everyone is motivated and we have been working hard to ensure we master tactics that we can use to hurt the Pharaohs,” he said.

On the absence of Salah, he said; “He is one the best African players and it would have been nice to go against him. However, it’s of course an advantage for us as we won’t have to worry about his qualities."

After the game, Kenya will jet back to Nairobi where they host Togo on Monday, while Egypt will be away in Comoros on the same day.

Probable Harambee Stars line-up

Goalkeeper: Patrick Matasi (St George SC – Ethiopia)

Defenders: Joash Onyango (Gor Mahia), Joseph Okumu (IF Elfsborg – Sweden), Eric Ouma (Vasalunds IF – Sweden), Samuel Olwande (Kariobangi Sharks)

Midfielders: Victor Wanyama (Tottenham – England), Johanna Omolo (Cercle Brugge – Belgium), Ayub Timbe (Beijing Renhe – China), Eric Johanna (IF Brommapojkana – Sweden)

Forwards: Lawrence Juma (Gor Mahia), Michael Olunga (Kashiwa Reysol – Japan)

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