Kenya, Ghana clash in battle of Stars

Friday March 22 2019

Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne controls the ball during their training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on March 19, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne controls the ball during their training session at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani on March 19, 2019. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

CELLESTINE OLILO
By CELLESTINE OLILO
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Six months ago when Kenya beat Ghana 1-0 at home in the second round of 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), it was premature to suggest that the victory would give Kenya a major boost in their bid to the continental scene.

At the time, the team had four more games left to play in Group ‘F’ - against Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Ghana - and these could go either way, considering Harambee Stars’ inconsistent performance at that time.

On Saturday, the two teams meet at the Accra Sports Stadium in Ghana from 9pm, and no result will change the fact that both teams will play in the month-long Afcon which kicks off on June 21 in Egypt.

The Black Stars of Ghana will be appearing in the competition for the eighth consecutive time while Kenya will be making a return after 15 years in the cold.

What gives Saturday’s game special meaning is the fact that whoever wins will finish the group matches on top of Group ‘F’, and whoever finishes on top of the group will move up in Fifa rankings, which will be used for seeding the qualified teams into four pots on April 12 when the draw for the tournament is done.

Kenya top the group on seven points, one more than Ghana. Ethiopia, with one point, is the only other team in the group, as Sierra Leone were expunged late last year following the suspension of the country's football federation by world governing body Fifa for government interference.

Ghana has played Kenya 11 times in the past, with Ghana winning seven times and two of the encounters ending in draws. Ghana, who have won the Afcon tournament four times, have hosted Kenya three times in Accra but lost once when they went down 3-1 on June 13, 2003 in a friendly match.

Kenya’s lead striker Michael Olunga is out with injury, and his place is likely to be filed by Libya-based forward Masoud Juma or seasoned SportPesa Premier League top scorer Allan Wanga.

Fit-again captain Victor Wanyama is set to take back his position in midfield where Francis Kahata is also a sure starter.

“We have already qualified and that is why we even let some good players join the national junior team for the Olympics qualifier," Kenya coach Sebastien Migne said.

"It was a huge surprise to beat Ghana here, and I hope it will be the same away. It will be difficult with some absent players but it will be a good opportunity for players to showcase their talent such as Masoud Juma.”

Black Stars coach Kwesi Appiah has said that the final 2019 AFCON qualifier against Kenya this weekend will help finalise the squad he will take to Egypt in June.

“It is an important game like any other game. Kenya is a good team and this is my last call-up before the Afcon so it is important to use the game to look at some of the players,” Appiah said on Ghana Soccer Net.

Appiah called up five debutants for the match including United Arab Emirates-based midfielder Ernest Asante and Caleb Ekuban who plays in Turkey, Belgium-based defender Joseph Aidoo, Asante Kotoko duo of Amos Frimpong and Kwame Bonsu.

Botswana referee Joshua Bondo will take charge of the match with help from country mates Meshack Medup and Moemedi Monakwane.

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