Kenya bank on home advantage to beat Sudan

Monday March 25 2019

Kenya's Under-23 coach Francis Kimanzi (centre) during a team training session at the Moi International Sports Centre Stadium, Kasarani on the eve of their 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations/2020 Olympic qualifier against Sudan on March 25, 2019. PHOTO | VINCENT OPIYO |

Kenya's Under-23 coach Francis Kimanzi (centre) during a team training session at the Moi International Sports Centre Stadium, Kasarani on the eve of their 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations/2020 Olympic qualifier against Sudan on March 25, 2019. PHOTO | VINCENT OPIYO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

VINCENT OPIYO
By VINCENT OPIYO
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Confidence and positive mentality punctuated the Kenya's final training session on Monday ahead of their 2019 Africa U-23 Cup of Nations/2020 Olympic qualifier against Sudan on Tuesday evening at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

The Emerging Stars need to overturn the 2-0 deficit they suffered in the first leg Wednesday last week in Khartoum to advance to the final round, whose winner will face that between Libya and Nigeria.

Libya visits Nigeria on Tuesday with a 2-0 advantage posted last week in Tunisia.

The Zdravko Logarusic-led Sudan checked into the country on Sunday and had a feel of the match venue on Monday evening.

Madagascan Andofetra Rakotojaona will be the centre referee in the 4pm kick off, whose entrance is free of charge.

He will be assisted by compatriots Velomanana Ferdinand and Randrianarivelo Ravonirina, while Amisy Tsimanohisty, also from Madagascar, will be the reserve referee.

“Everyone is looking forward to a big victory, we want to get an early goal that will get us on the right path,” the team’s stand-in captain Michael Kibwage told journalists after their last training session on Monday.

Head coach Francis Kimanzi has been boosted by the return of Sofapaka striker Pistone Mutamba, who had travelled to Ghana with Harambee Stars.

Mathare United playmaker James Kinyanjui is another addition from the team that went to Sudan as Kimanzi aims to go offensive from the opening whistle.

“We need to create more chances than them, something we didn’t do in Sudan, but there’s a huge possibility of scoring more,” said Kimanzi, who could miss forwards John Avire and Jafari Owiti to injury.

The duo did not train with the entire squad, but jogged on the sidelines.

Sweden-based Ovella Ochieng and Kariobangi Sharks’ James Mazembe will be expected to provide ammunition from the flanks, as Sven Yidah and Ibrahim Shambi marshal the central midfield.

Ulinzi Stars custodian Timothy Odhiambo is likely to start ahead of Sharks’ Brian Bwire, who conceded a lousy opening goal in the first leg.

USA-based Joseph “Crouch” Okumu, who captained the side in the 8-1 aggregate win over Mauritius in the first round last year, is unavailable due to club commitments.

The match will head direct to penalties to decide the winner in the event it ends 2-0 in favour of the hosts.

A total of seven teams from these qualifiers will join hosts Egypt in the final tournament scheduled for November this year in Cairo.

The top three teams will qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics men’s football in Tokyo, Japan.

Kenya U23 Probable lineup: Timothy Odhiambo (GK), Yussuf Mainge, David “Messi” Owino, Michael Kibwage, Johnson Omurwa, Sven Yidah, Ibrahim Shambi, Ovella Ochieng, James Mazembe, James Kinyanjui and Pistone Mutamba

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