The Kenyan hockey lads take on hosts South Africa in Saturday evening’s crunch semi-final of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations cum 2016 Rio qualifier at the Randburg Stadium, Johannesburg.
The Kenyans have vowed to avenge their women’s team embarrassing loss to South Africa.
The women’s team suffered a 12-0 thumping in the hands of the hosts and defending champions on Thursday evening and the men’s team want to restore some pride as they seek a place in today’s final.
Kenyan forward George Mutira has urged his teammates not to be intimidated by the hosts and concentrate on their own match.
“It was sad watching the ladies lose like that and we felt it, we have an opportunity to restore some pride to our country and I believe we will fight to the end,” Mutira told Saturday Nation Sport on phone from Johannesburg.
Kenya have their work cut out against a South African side that has scored 61 goals in their four preliminary matches and yet to concede any. The last meeting between the sides saw South Africa emerge 5-1 winners and Kenyan coach Meshack Senge, who was in-charge during that game, will hope to avoid a similar outcome.
“Obviously, they are the favourites going into this match but this is a semi-final and we are not here to make the numbers, we badly want to win and fans can expect a crunch match,” Senge said.
The tactician will welcome back his big guns including Captain Zack Aura, Richard Birir and Barnabas Odhiambo who were rested in Kenya’s 7-0 win over Tanzania.
Senge will however miss the services of midfielder Allan Iningu who has a fractured wrist and is set to undergo a minor surgery.
Mutira is expected to partner Aura upfront as Kenya look to penetrate the home side’s tough defence. Kenya’s defence will also need to be wary of South Africa’s Matthew Guise-Brown who has sounded the board 13 times at this event.
South Africa coach Fabian Gregory exuded confidence ahead of the encounter urging his charges to finish the job.
“It’s one step at a time. It’s about focusing on the process and how we do things. The only thing that we need to improve on is our decision-making in the circle but other than that I’m very happy with where we are as a team,” Gregory is quoted as saying by South African publication the Citizen.
The other semi-final will see Egypt take on Ghana. The overall winner of the event will seal a spot in next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil alongside the top women’s team.
Semi-Finals: Egypt v Ghana (3pm), South Africa v Kenya (5.30pm)
5/6th playoff: Zimbabwe v Nigeria – (8pm)