Kimanzi expects stiff squad competition ahead of Comoros tie

Kimanzi expects stiff squad competition ahead of Comoros tie

Jacob Icia in Nairobi

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi expects more competition among his players heading to the 2021 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, against Comoros next month after a fair show against Zambia.

Kenya edged Zambia 2-1 on Friday without several first team regulars, a performance the coach says is a recipe for stiff competition towards Comoros double header.

Before the match, Kimanzi had challenged the players to claim places in the team for next month’s qualifiers through performance, saying he would gladly welcome a selection nightmare.

“We have some young players that we have given a chance and they are showing tremendous zeal. With such, in our plans, we already know we must have them in our next match. That does not mean those who were absent are automatically out, it simply means the competition in the next camp will be at another level,” offered the veteran coach.

From his assessment, their performance indeed set the stage for what he exactly asked for; summarizing their outing as a “good job”.

“I think the victory gave us a good platform for the upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Comoros. If we had a bad game, it would have left us in a bad place psychologically but since we struggled and got the result, it will motivate us,” he observed.

Kimanzi reckons winning against Zambia despite some players enduring low fitness levels was also a statement, hoping the situation will be better going into the qualifiers.

“We struggled in the last 20 minutes or so (of the Zambia match) and that actually happened with a few players looking exhausted; this is because of the situation we have gone through. The most important thing is that the players have given themselves confidence for the Comoros match, at least they showed us something – a foundation for the next match,” he noted.

Kimanzi, one of the most accomplished local coaches in the country, is already hinting at some of the positions he expects to attract stiff competition during the November assignments.

“It will be very interesting. If you look at goalkeeper Ian (Otieno), he will be contesting for the position against Arnold (Origi). I’m also eager to see how they will compete to represent the country. We tried Philemon (Otieno) earlier but he is not yet fully fit, but whenever there is an issue and a player is unavailable he creates an opportunity for another one and I think for Badi (Baraka) we have to keep on building his confidence because it is the first time he is on this platform,” Kimanzi observed.

Captain Victor Wanyama, Japan Premier League top scorer Michael Olunga, Ayub Timbe, Circle Brugge’s Johanna Omollo, Elfsborg’s Joseph Stanley Okumu, Origi, Ismael Gonzalez and Eric Ouma (recovering from injury) are some of the players expected to return to the team for the November assignment.

Kimanzi knows Kenya will need to harvest maximum points against an impressive Comoros to keep the Cameroon 2021 dream alive, with Football Kenya Federation (FKF) boss Nick Mwendwa saying the least he expects from the islanders is four points.

Comoros top Group G of the qualifiers with four points, from a win and a draw against Togo and Egypt respectively. Kenya and Egypt have two each, having drawn in Cairo before the record African champions registered a barren stalemate away in Moroni, Comoros.

Kenya earned the second point after drawing Togo in Nairobi, as the quest to qualify for the biggest African football fiesta, two times in a row, kicked off with mixed results.