Harambee Stars on Sunday, June 23 were handed an unpleasant welcome to Africa’s biggest footballing stage after 15 years after going down 2-0 to Algeria at the 30 June Stadium.
Sebastian Migne’s side were sloppy throughout the match, failing to register a single shot or target.
Strikes from Al Sadd SC’s Baghdad Bounedjah and Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez were enough to paint bitter memories in the minds and hearts of thousands of Kenyans.
But what went wrong for Harambee Stars? What should be done for Kenya to make it through Group C?
Migne needs to regroup his side and work tactically to avoid more humiliation in his next match when Stars face neighbours Taifa Stars (Tanzania) on June 27.
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-Analysis of the squad-
Despite failing to stop Bounedjah’s spot kick, goalkeeper Patrick Matasi was outstanding, saving Harambee Stars’ blushes on many occasions with stunning saves. He still has more to offer the squad.
Stars had one of the worst defensive shows in AFCON so far, as the backline could not withstand the pressure from the formidable Desert Foxes.
Taking a look at Stars’ central defence, Nkana FC’S Musa Mohammed and Joseph Okumu of Real Monarchs were vulnerable as the Algerians often broke through often using long balls.
This clearly showed the huge void left by the injured defensive duo Joash Onyango and Brian Mandela.
On the fullbacks, Sepsi’s Abud Omar and Gor Mahia’s Philemon Otieno lacked control of the ball, losing possession several times, eventually costing Stars a goal in the first half.
Both players were booked early in the match due to consistent fouls on the Algeria attackers.
Migne, therefore, has a tough decision to make on his defensive pairing as the next group tie approaches and with Onyango and Mandela still injured, the Frenchman will have to give chance to youngsters Bernard Ochieng of Vihiga United and Vasalund’s Eric Ouma to reinforce the backline.
In central midfield, Tottenham’s Victor Wanyama and Sofapaka’s Dennis Odhiambo were not strong enough suppress Algeria’s pressure and could not link up well with attacking midfielder Erick Johanna and striker Michael Olunga, who saw the ball fewer times than most players.
On the flanks, Beijing Renhe’s Ayub Timbe and Gor Mahia’s Francis Kahata managed to dribble in few occasions but failed to create significant chances.
Migne has a lot of choices in the midfield with the likes of Spanish-based Ismael Athuman Gonzalez, AFC Leopards’ Paul Were, Mount Kenya United’s John Avire and Johanna Omolo of Cercle Brugge KSV available for selection.
In the attacking department, Kashiwa’s Olunga did not make any dangerous attempts but with a well-organised midfield, he can showcase his goal-scoring prowess.
Generally, Stars lacked confidence in the match and lost possession cheaply, gifting the Desert Foxes clear goal-scoring opportunities.
Appearing in the tournament for the first time after over a decade, playing a tough opening fixture and pressure from the home fans to deliver in Egypt perhaps may have had an impact on the players.
Confidence and tactical changes in Stars’ squad will see Migne’s side through the group stages and advance to glory in Egypt.
The Frenchman probably was keen on the tie and hopefully, he’ll challenge his lads for improved performance in the next one.