World Cup Qualifiers: Harambee Stars hit by injuries before Malawi and Ivory Coast clash

Football
By Washington Onyango | May 24, 2024
Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat during Open training Session for the senior national team at Utalii Grounds. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Kenya's national football team, the Harambee Stars, are grappling with a slew of injuries to key players ahead of their crucial World Cup qualifiers in Malawi next month, coach Engin Firat announced on Wednesday.

Firat revealed that his plans for the matches against Burundi on June 7 and Ivory Coast on June 11 have been significantly complicated by injuries affecting up to eight first-team players.

The list of injured includes striker Masoud Juma and defenders Dennis Nganga, Eric “Marcelo” Ouma, and Joseph Okumu.

"People talk of Michael Olunga but there are up to eight players not on the list," the Turkish coach stated during a news conference. "I don’t know for sure who will be 100 percent ready."

Despite the injury setbacks, Firat confirmed that Harambee Stars skipper and top striker Michael Olunga, whose name was notably absent from the initial 25-member squad released on Monday, will join the team directly in Malawi. Olunga, 30, currently plays for Qatari club Al Duhail.

The team faces additional challenges as they were forced to relocate their matches to Malawi. This move comes after the Kenyan government closed all major stadiums for renovations, leaving no FIFA-approved venues available in the country.

Kenya sits third in Group F of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers, having secured three points from their opening two matches against Gabon and Seychelles.

Ivory Coast and Gabon lead the group, each with six points from two matches. Only the top team in the group will qualify for the World Cup.

As the Harambee Stars prepare for these pivotal matches, the team's resilience will be tested against the reigning African champions, Ivory Coast, and a determined Burundi side.

Firat's ability to navigate these challenges and the players' determination will be crucial in their quest for World Cup qualification.

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