As Harambee Stars intensify their preparations for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations at the French Rugby Federation facilities in Paris, their Group “C” opponents are doing the same in different parts of the world.
Senegal, who have set aside a preparation budget of Sh500 million, have selected Spain for their pre-tournament preparations, which started on Saturday and which is expected to last 17 days.
Last Friday, coach Aliou Cisse named a 25-man provisional squad which included Liverpool forward Sadio Mane, who was the joint-top scorer in last season’s English Premier League with 22 goals.
The Lions of Teranga, who are Africa’s number one ranked team, will however leave Spain one week to the tournament, as they are expected to play Nigeria’s Super Eagles in a friendly match on June 16 at Ismailia Stadium in Ismailia.
Taifa Stars of Tanzania are already in Cairo for their pre-tournament preparations under Nigerian coach Emmanuel Amunike.
While in Cairo, Tanzania are scheduled to play against The Pharaohs of Egypt on June 13 at the Borg Al Arab Stadium in their only friendly match before the tournament.
Algeria started their Nations Cup preparations on Monday at the National Technical Centre in Algiers, before flying to Qatar on Saturday for a training camp.
Senegal and Algeria are no doubt the favourites to secure the two automatic qualification spots from the group for the round of 16.
Algeria coach Djamel Belmadi called up just one local-based Hicham Boudaoui (Paradou) in his squad announced last Thursday.
The bigger names in the Desert Foxes set-up are of course forwards Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City, England) and Islam Slimani (Fenerbahce, Turkey).
But the in form man is striker Baghdad Bounedjah who plundered 39 goals for Qatari champions Al Sadd this season.
Rare participants Kenya have organised two friendly matches against Madagascar in Paris and Democratic Republic of Congo in Madrid on June 7 and June 15 respectively.
They will then make the final trip to Egypt on June 19.
On Sunday, Stars were boosted by the arrival in camp of Sweden based forward Christopher Mbamba, who is now among 18 players already in camp. Nine more players, including captain Victor Wanyama, are expected to check in this week.
“My call up to the national team is a motivation to local based players. It is not easy to earn a chance (in the national team) but I think with hard work and patience, things can work out,” said defender Philemon Otieno.
“I have gained a lot of confidence playing in the club continental championships, and I believe the experience will make it easier for me in the national team,” added Otieno.
Kenya’s first match at the continental tourney will be against Algeria on June 23 in Cairo, before they take on Tanzania in their second match four days later.
The game between Harambee Stars and Senegal will be the last group C match on July 1, with all their group matches been staged at the 30,000-seater 30 June stadium in Cairo.