NAIROBI, March 2 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s national football team, the Harambee Stars, are now keen on laying a solid platform for the forthcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers with hopes of featuring in the Cameroon 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals all but over.
The side will play five matches this month – three friendly fixtures and two Afcon qualifiers – with head coach, Jacob Mulee, saying it gives the coaching staff a good opportunity to test the depth of local talent.
Having made the Egypt 2019 Afcon finals, Kenya’s hopes of featuring at the Cameroon tournament that was pushed forward by a year to 2022 due to the global pandemic, are effectively over with Stars lying third in Group G on three points.
Mulee hinted at giving locally based players a good run in the busy month, with the squad starting their second week of training camp in Nairobi.
“Friendlies are welcome. We will be able to really gauge how the local boys are going to play and where the league is in terms of competitiveness. We will see whether we can take it to an international level,” Mulee said on Monday evening.
“Those three friendlies are very important for us and I believe that if what I have been seeing in the league is everything to go by, then that is a very good measure for the national team,” the seasoned tactician who led Kenya to the Tunisia 2004 Afcon finals remarked.
Record Afcon champions Egypt lead surprise package Comoros Islands on goal difference with both tied atop of Group G on eight points apiece with Togo trailing the pool with a single point.
Stars will play South Sudan on March 13 in the first friendly before hosting Tanzania in back-to-back matches on March 15 and 18.
Kenya will host African giants Egypt on March 22 before travelling to Togo on March 30 to round off their 2021 Afcon qualifiers.
Mulee’s concern is trying to solve the endemic scoring problem that has plagued the team for almost two decades with the country’s goal burden being shared between retired record scorer, Dennis Oliech and former Chinese club Guizhou FC striker, Michael Olunga who now plays in Qatar.
Kenyan Premier League log leaders Tusker FC youngster Henry Meja, Eric Kapaito (Kariobangi Sharks) and Elvis Rupia (AFC Leopards) are some of the strikers Mulee is keen on giving a run with the national side following their scoring form in the domestic competition.
Mulee will be using the matches to prepare for the upcoming 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers that get underway in June.