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2024 WAFCON Qualifiers: Wasteful Harambee Starlets held by Botswana

Football
 Harambee Starlets' Cynthia Musungu (left) and Masego Montsho of Mares, Botswana in their 1st match of the final round of the WAFCON qualifier match against Mares of Botswana at the Nyayo National Stadium. Nov 29, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Starlets will have to dig deep next week in Gaborone if they are to qualify for the 2024 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) to be held in Morocco.

This is after the Beldine Odemba charges failed to convert their chances and home advantage in a 1-1 draw against Botswana during the first leg of the final qualifiers played at Nyayo Stadium on Wednesday.

Starlets disappointed the thousands of fans after Violet Nanjala missed a penalty in the final kick of the match, a spot kick that would have given Kenya the edge ahead of the return leg set for Tuesday next week at Gaborone National Stadium in Botswana.

Keituneste Dithede gave Botswana a dream starts to the qualifiers after scoring in the 36th minute, silencing the red and white Kenyan fans at Nyayo.

However, returning after four years out Marjolene Nekesa restored parity once again for Kenya after converting a penalty at the stroke of half time.

Odemba made changes to the team in the final half introducing Sheril Angachi, Janet Moraa, Joy Oriyo, and Violet Nanjala, changes that indeed stabilized the Kenyan midfield and attack.

However, the Botswana defense were impenetrable led by their captain in goal, Maitulemo Sedilame who prevented any goal attempts as Masego Montsho and Leungo Senuelo manned the central defense.

The visitors also used game wasting tactics to frustrate Starlets, staying down at every tackle, a move that saw the referee add five extra minutes.

In the last build up play for Kenya, Janet Moraa’s cross would hit Mochawe Kesego’s hand resulting into a penalty in the final minute.

Nanjala stood up but could not soak up the pressure as Botswana captain Sedilame stood tall to save the spot kick and became a national hero back home.

Both teams have been to the WAFCON once and the winner of the second leg next week will book a ticket to the continental games for the second time.

The second leg would not be a match for Starlets who will be chasing history.

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.

The first leg of the match back then also ended in a 1-1 draw before a 2-2 draw in Algiers saw them qualify on away goal rule. Will history repeat itself next week?

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