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World Cup qualifier: Eyes on Olunga as coach Firat names team to face Mali

FOOTBALL By Washington Onyango | October 5th 2021
Harambee Stars' Coach Engin Firat training as they prepare for the upcoming back to back 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Mali at Utalii College Sports Club on Friday, October 1, 2921. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

New Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat yesterday named his travelling squad for the upcoming 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier against Mali in Morocco on Thursday. 

The Turkish tactician named a strong side which is led by Michael Olunga and the returning defensive trio of Joash Onyango, Abuod Omar and David ‘Calabar’ Owino.

Many fans will be putting their faith on Qatar based striker Olunga who has been in sizzling form for his club Al Duhail.

Earlier last month, Olunga scored five goals as a second half substitute to take his club to second in the log.

In the process, Olunga took his tally of the season to seven goals in two matches, a feat that sees him also top the top scorers’ chart of the Qatar League.

Kenya will also be looking for a first win in the qualifiers.

Due to lack of a standard Fifa approved stadium, Mali will host Harambee Stars at the 45,000 capacity Stade Adrar in Agadir, Morocco

Stars’ managed to draw 0-0 and 1-1 against Uganda and Rwanda. Infact, Olunga scored the goal against Rwanda in Kigali that handed Kenya a second point in the pool.

Olunga will not be alone up top as Firat has named last season’s FKF Premier League MVP and Golden Boot winner Erick Kapaito in the team alongside youthful striker Henry Mejja.

Experienced defenders Onyango and David ‘Calabar’ Owino have made the cut in the department that consists of Erick Ouma, Joseph Okumu, Johnstone Omurwa, Daniel Sakari, David Owino of KCB, Bolton Omwenga and FKF Premier League Defender of the Year Eugene Asike.

Tusker prodigy Eric Zakayo and US-based Philip Mayaka have also made the team.

Kenya Harambee Stars stricker Michael Olunga against Ghana during their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at Moi International Sports Centre Kasarani Stadium[Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Mayaka, who plays for USL Championship club Colorado Springs Switchbacks on loan from MLS side Colorado Rapids, said he will give his best on his debut.

“First, I thank God for the opportunity to play for the national team. My plan is to give my best and help the team win. I want to impress the coaches so to earn more call ups in future,” said Mayaka, formerly of St Anthony’s Boys Kitale.

FKF Premier League Golden Glove winner James Saruni has once again been overlooked after being dropped despite the form that saw him keep 12 clean sheets last season for his club Ulinzi Stars.

Kariobangi Sharks trio of Samuel Olwande, Patillah Omoto and Sydney Lokale have also been dropped alongside Gor Mahia youngster Frank Odhiambo, Wazito’s Musa Masika, KCB’s Reagan Otieno and Bandari’s Keegan Ndemi.

Kenya travelled to Morocco yesterday evening.

 

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