On their way to next month’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, Harambee Stars have been mean at the back, at least with their home matches.
In two home matches against African giants Ghana and Ethiopia, Kenya picked maximum points without cracking at the back.
They then went to Ethiopia and also made sure they did not concede. They only conceded one goal in Ghana.
The highest number of goals they conceded were two after suffering a 2-1 loss to Sierra Leone away in their first qualifier match.
South Africa-based defender Brian Mandela has been one of the key players at Stars' back proving dependable every time he got a chance to feature.
Such has been his commitment in this qualifier that he took the bullet for the team and had to miss Stars famous 1-0 win over Ghana in Nairobi after being suspended in the first qualifier.
Musa Otieno, the last captain to lead Harambee Stars to the Africa Cup of Nations finals in 2004, believes Mandela will have a successful campaign in this year’s tournament.
“He is a leader at the back and works very hard. Despite being soft-spoken, you always feel his presence or absence in the team. He commands the rest and is very disciplined," said Otieno.
“Furthermore, he brings quite a lot in the team. With his physique, the aerial balls will be taken care of. Whoever he has been partnering with; either Musa Mohammed or Joash Onyango; it has been a successful partnership and one that should continue in Egypt."
Otieno added that the team’s back-line remains strong and has been one the most dependable in a long time.
“We used to struggle at the right and left backs, but now Sebastian Migne has a lot of options. There is competition at the back and this has helped bring out the best in the players.
“Our defensive approach has improved tremendously and we can see the difference in the few number of goals conceded.”
Mandela made his debut for Harambee Stars in 2011 playing in a 4-0 win over Seychelles in a World Cup qualifier at Nyayo Stadium.
Since then, he has played in 22 matches though it could have been more had it not been for the numerous injuries he has endured.
He boasts two goals in the 22 matches he has featured for Stars since his debut. The former Mbotela Kamaliza defender started his career in the SportPesa Premier League (SPL) in 2010 with Posta Rangers before joining Tusker one year later.
He moved to South Africa in 2012 joining Santos in the Premier Soccer League (SPL) for three seasons.