Local-based Stars put strong case for 2021 Afcon inclusion

Wednesday March 18 2020
By DAVID KWALIMWA

Kenneth Muguna asserted his international comeback with a cool goal as home-based players put a strong case for inclusion in Kenya’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers squad as Harambee Stars battled from a goal down to draw with Uganda in an international friendly match on Sunday in Nairobi.

In the absence of Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama and his regular midfield partner Johanna Omollo, Muguna was one of the players handed a chance to impress by new coach Francis Kimanzi at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani.

And the Gor Mahia captain, who last played for the national team 14 months ago against India, didn't disappoint.

Cheered by an estimated 12,000 fans in attendance including opposition leader Raila Odinga and Sports CS Amina Mohammed, the 23-year-old helped Stars dictate play at the centre of the pack with accurate passes and tracking in defensive, before making the most telling contribution.

With his team trailing at the start of the second half, the lean, ex-Western Stima attacker found his way into the box and had the presence of mind to tap in — one-touch-time — Ayub Timbe’s delivery, with Uganda's Khalid Aucho clipping at his heels.

“It was a good performance from the whole team against a quality team which helped me to play well. I am very happy. The whole idea is to commence preparations early ahead of the 2021 Afcon qualifiers in November and this game provided that," said Muguna.

Besides Muguna, Kimanzi also handed game to local-based Lawrence Juma, Collins Agade, Johnstone Omurwa, Samuel Olwande, and Boniface Muchiri.

"These are the type of games where the players can use to step up to the next level. I'm impressed with what they were able to produce against quality opposition and especially in the second half," said Kimanzi.

However, there were some worrying moments from the hosts in the opening half.

In one instance, Ugandan forward Emmanuel Okwi easily danced his way past Kenya's central defender Joash Onyango in the box before powering a low shot past a hapless Patrick Matasi.

Earlier, winger Abdu Lumala also found his way past Onyango's partner Michael Kibwage down the right-hand side in a spell that would leave Kimanzi hoping defenders Brian Mandela, Joash Okumu and David 'Cheche' Ochieng will be available for the next assignment.

Football Kenya Federation president Nick Mwendwa has announced Stars will play two more friendlies against Mozambique and Libya before confronting Egypt in Cairo in their opening 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.