Harambee Stars face acid test against Qatar in Doha

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga during a training session at Kasarani Stadium on Monday. [FKF Media]

Ever since the Fifa ban was lifted last year, Harambee Stars have been struggling to hit the ground running.

The fans were eager to see their beloved team rise from the ashes, but the results so far have been far from satisfactory.

In fact, Stars dropped down three places in the latest rankings released by the world football governing body.

The national football team dropped from position 102 and is now ranked 105 globally with 1191.07 points.

The drop is attributed to the team’s latest poor results registered during their last three international friendly matches played against Iran (lost 2-1), Pakistan (won 1-0) and Mauritius (lost 1-0).

As the nation's hopes waned, the spotlight turned to the head coach, Engin Firat, who is well aware of the immense pressure resting on his shoulders especially after Kenya was drawn in a fairly tricky Group F of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Stars will fight for the only direct spot in the group against Ivory Coast, Gabon, Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles.

Firat knows that something has to change before the qualifiers as his charges clash with a fairly highly-ranked nation in Dubai today.

Harambee Stars will face off against Qatar today (6.15 pm EAT) in a match that provides an opportunity for Firat to test his players but also win the hearts and minds of Kenyan fans.

“Qatar is a very strong side. It’s only that during the World Cup they didn’t show the performance which they have shown all the time before. They had a good run before the World Cup, they are the Asian defending champions and have a great home record.

“They have all the players who featured in the World Cup, and this means we will really have a very challenging game. The likes of Akram Afif and Almoez Ali are exciting and very technical players,” said Firat during Monday’s press conference.

“It’s a good friendly as we prepare to play Ivory Coast, Gambia and Gabon away. We are keen to see how we can perform under such pressure.”

Harambee Stars captain Olunga said facing Qatar will be interesting for Stars who by playing stronger opponents he said will help raise the standards of football for the national team.

“Familiar territory for me to play. They are a quality side ranked 59 which means they are a tough side and Kenya is making the right moves by playing stronger sides as we prepare for the World Cup qualifiers,” said the Al Duhail forward.

“My job as a striker is to get goals. My motivation is quite high and we want to show the world that we Kenyans can also play football.”

Firat dropped four players from the 28-man squad.

The four include Austin Odhiambo of Gor Mahia and Kariobangi Sharks young star Stanley Wilson. Also released were Bandari winger Abdallah Hassan, who has been key for the Stars in recent years, and seasoned defender David "Cheche" Ochieng of Kenya Police.

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