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Bring it on Botswana

 Harambee Starlets Tereza Engesha(right) and Cameroon Easther Kith battle for the ball posseion during their Women's Africa Cup of Nation 2024 qualifier at the Nyayo National Stadium on September 26, 2023[Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Harambee Starlets are confident of matching their 2016 heroics by qualifying for the 2024 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON).

Led by their captain Ruth Ingotsi, Starlets only need to knock out Botswana in the two-legged second round qualifiers and the Tanzanian-based defender believes they can do it.

That quest begins on Tuesday (today) when the two sides face-off at Nyayo Stadium from 3pm.

Harambee Starlets made history by qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time on away-goal rule, following a 3-3 aggregate result over Algeria in 2016.

Speaking ahead of the first leg, Ingotsi said the players are hungry for more after their comeback win over Cameroon last month.

“We've been missing in action for quite some time; seven years and counting. The hunger is there within the players and I believe we have the talent to repeat the 2016 heroics," she said.

“The match is like a final to us and we must pass this hurdle."

The Simbas Queens defender added that the bond and mental strength in the team is strong.

“This team is strong. The mental stability is commendable and it was evident during the penalty shoot-out against Cameroon. Despite missing the first penalty, the other players didn't lose hope. It shows that we can come from poor starts or decisions and fight to the end,” said Ingotsi.

Starlets have played Botswana twice in 2015 during the CAF Olympic qualifiers where Kenya won 1-0 at home before losing 2-1 away.

Mwanalima Adam, who is based in Turkey, rallied the Kenyan fans to turn out in large numbers as they look out to close out the match before playing away.

“The match is free, so let’s turn out in numbers because in as much as we understand the pressure of performing in front of a mammoth of crowd, you guys are our 12th player and we need you to cheer us on,” said the former Thika Queens star.

Adam, the captain of Hakkarigucu Spor Women FC, missed the 2016 Afcon despite playing in the qualifiers after being forced to remain home to sit for her KCSE national exams. She wants to achieve her dream of playing in the continental showpiece next year.

“In 2016, it was painful for me to miss the moments especially after helping the team write history. I want to live the Wafcon feeling,” she said.

Beldine Odemba, the head coach, said they are ready for the test despite missing some of the players including Jentrix Shikangwa who pulled out with an injury.

Sheryl Angachi and Marjolene Nekesa, who have been missing in action are, however, back with the team and Odemba believes they can topple Botswana.

"If we can secure victories against Botswana in both home and away matches, we will bag a spot in the 2024 WAFCON tournament," she said.

“It also provides us players with a great chance to display our skills on a larger platform because in football, increased visibility translates to more opportunities. I encourage fans to rally behind us; your support is crucial, and I trust you won't disappoint us."

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