Kenya ready to face Africa’s best, says Kimanzi

By : Friday, November 16th 2018 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Kenya's James Ogachi celebrate after scoring a goal against Mauritius during the U23 Olympic qualifier match at Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday, Nov 14, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

National men’s U23 football team coach Francis Kimanzi believes the Emerging Stars have what it takes to compete against the best teams in the continent.

The junior team produced a masterclass, thrashing Mauritius 5-0 in the first leg of the African football qualifying competition for the 2020 Japan Olympic Games, at Kasarani Stadium on Wednesday.

Emerging Stars fly to the Belle Vue in the Indian Ocean Island nation today for Sunday’s return game, whose winner on aggregate will face off with either Sudan or Seychelles in the second round, with a third round also in line.

But after watching his side brush aside Mauritius, the Mathare United coach said Kenya is slowly getting its groove back.

“To be the best and compete against the best in the continent, you need some depth and to build that depth, you need a strong youth team.

“In essence, you need more than one team in youth categories so that you can prepare them for the top level football. I think we are not far and we are getting it safer as a country,” said Kimanzi.

Get the latest sports news updates. Subscribe to our SMS sports service by texting 'SPORTS' to 22840.

Asked on his decision to start debutant Henry Ochieng from the bench and not to field Sutton United’s Jonah Ayunga, the experienced tactician said: “If you want to have a strong team, you need to have some balance in the team’s confidence.

“When you have a lot of new players, some plying their trade in other countries there is always challenges with the cultural shock and language barrier.

“Therefore, you must be very clever.”