Possible Harambee Stars’ fate in AFCON

By Clinton Nyabuto: Monday, June 17th 2019 at 12:04 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars players celebrate in a past match [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicks off on Friday, June 21, with hosts Egypt taking on Zimbabwe at the Cairo International Stadium, Cairo.

Kenya, who last made an appearance in 2004, have been pooled alongside neighbours Tanzania, Algeria and 2002 runners-up Senegal.

Harambee Stars coach Sebastian Migne faces a tough test of delivering in Egypt after successfully guiding the team to their first ever Africa Cup of Nations finals in 15 years.

Migne’s men have so far had a brilliant pre-Afcon campaign after edging Madagascar 1-0 in a friendly match in France followed by a draw 1-1 against DR Congo in a tie staged in Madrid, Spain.

-Tough group-

Stars begin their campaign on Sunday as they clash with the Desert Warriors (Algeria) - a match they need to win to increase their chances of qualifying to the last 12.

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Both teams have enjoyed a magnificent run of form with Algeria winning six of their last 10 matches, drawing three and losing one while Stars have won six of their last 10 matches, drawing two and losing two.

It will be a match that will also involve two Premier League players clashing from either side as Kenya’s skipper Victor Wanyama will meet Manchester City’s Algerian wizard Riyad Mahrez.

Riyad Mahrez [Courtesy]

Algeria are ranked 68 in the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) world rankings as Kenya hold the 105th spot.

In the second fixture, Kenya will play Tanzania on June 27 in a match that most fans have dubbed ‘easy’, taking into account Taifa Stars’ poor run of form - losing three of their last six matches, leaving them on the 131st spot in the latest FIFA rankings. It’s a must-win match for Harambee Stars.

Stars face a tricky tie on July 1 as they clash with Africa’s best-ranked national football team in the FIFA world rankings, Senegal.

The Lions of Teranga are 22nd on the FIFA rankings, boasting services of the 2018/19 Premier League top scorer, Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.

Sadio Mane [Courtesy]

The West Africans have won all of their last five matches, sinking Nigeria 1-0 in their last friendly match played on June 16 in Dakar, Senegal.

-Stars boosted by foreign players-

Migne’s squad has been reinforced by foreign players who joined the training camp in France led by Tottenham midfielder Victor Wanyama and Sweden-based Eric Johanna.

Ismail Gonzalez will look to add some flare to the Harambee Stars midfield, having plied his trade in one of Europe’s top leagues – La Liga.

Michael Olunga [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

‘Engineer’ Michael Olunga, who plays for Kashiwa Reysol in the Japanese League will lead the line for Kenya as China-based Ayub Timbe looking to provide some attacking dynamism.

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