African Games: It’s dogfight as Kenya, Cameroon clash again

By RODGERS ESHITEMI IN NASSAU, BAHAMAS: Friday, August 30th 2019 at 00:00 GMT +3 | Volleyball and Handball
Kenya women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers [Courtesy]

Will Kenya women’s volleyball team, Malkia Strikers, retain their African Games title in Rabat, Morocco, at 8 pm tonight?

Or will Cameroon continue with their dominance over Kenya in the continental finals and once again break the East Africans’ hearts?

The two African giants, who were in the same group ‘B’, clash tonight in what is expected to be an explosive final for the third time in three years after meeting in the last two African Nations Championship finals.

Both teams secured straight-set wins over their respective semifinals opponents on Wednesday night to set up a repeat of the 2015 African Games final in Congo Brazzaville.

Kenya beat Nigeria 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-11) in the first semis before Cameroon saw off hosts Morocco with an identical scoreline of 25-16, 25-20 and 25-10.

Though Kenya overcame the Cameroonians 3-1 (15-25,25-14, 25-15, 25-19) in the Congo Brazzaville showpiece, the West Africans have suddenly become a force to be reckoned with after winning the 2017 and 2019 continental finals in Yaoundé and Cairo respectively.

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The top-ranked Cameroonian side beat Malkia Strikers by straight sets in an emotional 2017 final in Yaoundé before defending their continental crown with a 3-2 (17-25, 27-25,23-25,25-23,13-15) victory against Kenya in Egypt last month.

Prior to dethroning Kenya in 2017, Cameroon had denied them a ticket to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Brazil.

But having accurately predicted the final, Malkia Strikers coach Paul Bitok is prepared for a difficult match. Kenya saw off Cameroon 3-1 in their opening group ‘B’ match last weekend.

“I hope the win over Nigeria will be our motivation for the final. Cameroon have been giving us a lot of problems in the recent past, we beat them in the group but I don’t want to take any chances. I want to prepare very well and go home with the gold medal,” said Bitok.

“As we head into the finals, once again I want to emphasize to my team not to be complacent at all or think of last match’s result. Besides that, it is important we maintain our teamwork, determination and belief at all times.”

Reflecting on his side’s semifinals victory over Nigeria, the immediate former Rwanda coach said:

“Once again, I am very proud of the team for their victory over Nigeria. As laid out in our tactical plan, the team went full throttle and executed each play and run with resounding energy. This match to me spelt out the character and class we need to display in every match.”

The final will be preceded by an early kick-off playoff match between Morocco and Nigeria at 6pm.

 

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