Kenya will return to AFCON, says ‘Marcelo’

Kenyan international Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma says Kenya has a big chance to qualify for the 2022 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), despite the stiff competition in Group G so far.

At the start of the campaign last year, most pundits predicted it Kenya’s Group G was going to be dominated by seven-time champions Egypt, and Harambee Stars fresh from the 2019 AFCON.

The thought was fair, as the other group members Togo and Comoros were and are still lowly ranked compared with the Pharaohs and Stars.

The rankings however, have not been reflected in the two matches played so far. In the October 2020 global FIFA ranking, Egypt is at 52, Kenya 103, Togo 126 while Comoros lies at position 132.

The Islanders won 1-0 away to Togo and drew Egypt 0-0 at home to top the Group with four points. The opening match for Kenya was away to Egypt, ending 1-1 before drawing Togo in Nairobi, meaning the initial two favourites are tied with two points while the West African’s are bottom with one.

The unexpected table reading after the first two rounds has left an exciting challenge for all teams, according to Marcelo ahead of their clash against Comoros on November 11 and 15 respectively.

“We have a chance to qualify. We are a team with quality players capable of doing the job, but the opponents are good as well. We just have to work together and get our strategies right to beat them all,” the former Gor Mahia man said.

Although the AIK Fotboll ace has just recovered from a calf injury having been sidelined since May 2020, he is enthusiastic about flying high Kenya’s flag in the decisive Comoros’ ties.

“It has been long since I played in competitive football, before my recent match (on October 18 against Göteborg) which really set me back on track. It was a good  feeling to be back. I’m excited to be back to play, this is what I love and everybody around is happy. We are together to push this dream forward,” told Ouma, who on Sunday was named in the Harambee Stars provisional squad for the Comoros matches.

To be ready fit again just before the AFCON qualifiers is a big boost for the new Stars coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee, as Ouma was not available for Zambia’s friendly on October 9.

“Recovery journey has been difficult. I really had to work hard while observing patience to be back. I’m grateful I can now contribute to my club and my national team,” he offered.

Having been an important figure in the Sebastien Migne and Francis  Kimanzi’s side for the 2019 AFCON and the tournament’s qualifiers, Ouma’s recovery places him on the path to continue the journey for the 2022 fiesta which he kicked off with fulltime outings against Egypt and Togo.

Ouma’s AIK will meanwhile be in action on Monday evening (October 26) against Norrköping in the Swedish top tier, one of the four matches he is expected to play for the 11th placed side in the 16-team league before flying to Nairobi for the Comoros duty.

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