AFCON: Harambee Stars ready for mother of all battles

By By Sammy Kitula, in Cairo: Monday, July 1st 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Football
Harambee Stars striker Michael Ogada Olunga (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring the winner against Tanzania during their Total Africa Cup of Nations 2019 second Group C match at 30 June stadium in Cairo, Egypt on June 27, 2019. Kenya won 3-2. [Stafford Ondego]

Harambee Stars head coach Sebastian Migne attaches enormous importance to getting everything right.

At yesterday’s pre-match press conference, ahead of their last Group C match against Senegal tonight (10pm), he wanted to have everything right. His responses were calculated and well-thought out.

He knew when to pause and for how long. He knew when to talk and how. He would punctuate his replies with half-smiles. He wanted it to look normal to him and to every soul inside the room.

Migne had been a man under siege, but yesterday, his conduct did not give him away.

“Not only is Senegal a physical team, but they have many top players. Sadio Mane is a big player, but we are determined to get at least a point against them. We will rely on team spirit to accomplish that,” said Migne.

And for Harambee Stars to achieve their goal of qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time, they must tame the marauding Liverpool dynamo. It’s a match that no doubt brims with endless questions. How far will the Kenyans possibly go in this year’s tournament?

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Will defender Joash Onyango recover in good time? Would his peers Musa Mohammed, Joseph Okumu and Bernard Ochieng remain stoic as expected? How about Victor Wanyama and Johanna Omollo; will they marshal the Kenyan midfield like real commanders?

In a tournament where most Kenyan players can hold a candle to their peers, Senegal is an exception. They take pleasure in steadiness quite uncommon in Afcon. In truth, The Lions of Teranga can easily pass as the perpetual idols of possession.

They can slice through antagonists with lightening speed. They can also choose to let their opposition suffer a slow death of woozily passing passes.

Throw a fairly impregnable-looking Senegalese defence, and you will realise the mammoth task that awaits the Kenyans.

But for midfielder Johanna Omollo, they will beg to learn from their strong performance against Tanzania.

“Of course there’s pressure playing them (Senegal) but we are happy with how we are progressing. We began badly, but returned with a well-deserved victory. We seek to build on that,” said Omollo yesterday.

Praise for Stars’ results against Tanzania on Sunday will be sustained and richly deserved. The sight of those incredible goals and Taifa Stars being pulled apart by a crop of stunningly flowing sporting prowess will last in our memories for a while.

But it will bring somewhat an equivalent pleasure in seeing Senegal fail too.

“I would have prayed to play them when they are assured of a spot in the knockouts. I will talk to the boys and tell them we need to remain strong. After all, no one would have imagined we could be at this stage of the tournament,” said Migne.

If the answer had been yes, Senegal would be having six points now and give Stars a relatively ‘easy’ moment. But no; they have three and The Lions of Teranga are hunting for more.

That must be the fear for Harambee Stars; if all their new-found brilliance towards marching to the last 16 comes to nothing.

But this will be like a final, where the winner will take it all. So, who will blink first?

Harambee Stars head coach Sebastian Migne attaches enormous importance to getting everything right.

At yesterday’s pre-match press conference, ahead of their last Group C match against Senegal tonight (10pm), he wanted to have everything right. His responses were calculated and well-thought out.

He knew when to pause and for how long. He knew when to talk and how. He would punctuate his replies with half-smiles. He wanted it to look normal to him and to every soul inside the room.

Migne had been a man under siege, but yesterday, his conduct did not give him away.

“Not only is Senegal a physical team, but they have many top players. Sadio Mane is a big player, but we are determined to get at least a point against them. We will rely on team spirit to accomplish that,” said Migne.

And for Harambee Stars to achieve their goal of qualifying for the knockout stages for the first time, they must tame the marauding Liverpool dynamo. It’s a match that no doubt brims with endless questions. How far will the Kenyans possibly go in this year’s tournament?

Will defender Joash Onyango recover in good time? Would his peers Musa Mohammed, Joseph Okumu and Bernard Ochieng remain stoic as expected? How about Victor Wanyama and Johanna Omollo; will they marshal the Kenyan midfield like real commanders?

In a tournament where most Kenyan players can hold a candle to their peers, Senegal is an exception. They take pleasure in steadiness quite uncommon in Afcon. In truth, The Lions of Teranga can easily pass as the perpetual idols of possession.

They can slice through antagonists with lightening speed. They can also choose to let their opposition suffer a slow death of woozily passing passes.

Throw a fairly impregnable-looking Senegalese defence, and you will realise the mammoth task that awaits the Kenyans.

But for midfielder Johanna Omollo, they will beg to learn from their strong performance against Tanzania.

“Of course there’s pressure playing them (Senegal) but we are happy with how we are progressing. We began badly, but returned with a well-deserved victory. We seek to build on that,” said Omollo yesterday.

Praise for Stars’ results against Tanzania on Sunday will be sustained and richly deserved. The sight of those incredible goals and Taifa Stars being pulled apart by a crop of stunningly flowing sporting prowess will last in our memories for a while.

But it will bring somewhat an equivalent pleasure in seeing Senegal fail too.

“I would have prayed to play them when they are assured of a spot in the knockouts. I will talk to the boys and tell them we need to remain strong. After all, no one would have imagined we could be at this stage of the tournament,” said Migne.

If the answer had been yes, Senegal would be having six points now and give Stars a relatively ‘easy’ moment. But no; they have three and The Lions of Teranga are hunting for more.

That must be the fear for Harambee Stars; if all their new-found brilliance towards marching to the last 16 comes to nothing.

But this will be like a final, where the winner will take it all. So, who will blink first?

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