Two draws leave the Kenyan national team in a difficult position
The Harambee Stars are a modest East African footballing nation who have never been to the FIFA World Cup or the knockout stages of a major international tournament. Yet, Kenya keep going at a chance to elevate their most popular sport when they have otherwise seen more success in other sports.
The Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee-led side began their quest to represent Africa at next year’s World Cup, and now have two points to show for their efforts after the opening two games earlier in September.
The lack of conviction in their credentials is so far making it hard to predict if Kenya is still capable of reaching the World Cup. Yet, it would be foolhardy to rule them out at this stage.
We take a look at how their World Cup qualification campaign has kicked off in Group E for the Qatar 2022 showpiece, against Uganda and Rwanda.
Kenya vs Uganda (0-0)
Kenya hosted East African rivals Uganda to a nil-nil draw in their opening encounter at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi
‘Ghost’ Mulee was overseeing another qualifying campaign since Kenya failed to qualify for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations while the occasion also proved to be Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic’s first competitive fixture since his appointment as Uganda boss.
The Cranes would however rue the loss of Halid Lwaliwa and Emmanuel Okwi to injuries during the game as Kenneth Muguna and debutant Richard Odada impressed for Kenya.
Despite a goalless first half, the Harambee Stars had dominated the middle of the park and shown some moments of danger.
Masoud Juma eventually brought some spark into the game with a dangerous run and cross that was smothered by Murushid Juuko who had managed to shackle Kenya’s danger man Michael Olunga, this characterized the lack of cutting-edge this game had seen.
In the end, neither side was unable to break the deadlock in a drab stalemate, but Kenya had amassed 53% ball possession and 11 shots with two on target.
Unable to get the maximum points at home, a relatively tougher test lay ahead only two days later in Kigali.
Rwanda vs Kenya (1-1)
Mulee’s men were held to yet another draw by Rwanda at the Stade Régional de Nyamirambo. The hosts had lost their opening game 1-0 to Mali and were desperate for a result on home soil
However, Kenya took the lead inside the opening 10 minutes through Michael Olunga, but their opponents fought back to force an equalizer from Abdul Rwatubyaye.
The visitors were hungrier and sharper in the early exchanges as they capitalized on a slow start by the Amavubi and pushed forward with every opportunity.
Daniel Sakari sent in a dangerous cross which was fumbled by the goalkeeper and sparked a goal-line scrap which fell to the grateful Olunga for a first international goal since November 2019.
A header from Jacques Tuyisenge in the 20th minute deflected against Abdul Rwatubyaye and into the net as Rwanda pulled level from a corner. Thus, a frantic game for the remaining 70 minutes lacked a clinical touch.
Olunga missed a glorious chance to grab a second just before the hour mark when he cut in to shoot, and was clear on goal. However, he blazed over the bar.
Although the Harambee Stars looked dangerous every time they attacked. They were reminded of concentration lapses in defence when Meddie Kagere received the ball inside in the box but flashed his effort wide of the Kenya goal.
Nevertheless, the away side were prudent with their 46% possession having registered three efforts on target to the all-important one from Rwanda.
All in all, it could have been better, and it could have been worse. Two points from six available means Kenya stay second and face a double-header showdown against Group E leaders Mali in the October international break.
Getting past Mali in quick succession is a very daunting task, but Kenya’s performances can only improve and they must prove why they should reach the FIFA World Cup finals.