More questions than answers for Kimanzi after two matches in charge

More questions than answers for Kimanzi after two matches in charge

Harambee Stars head coach Francis Kimanzi has regretted the 1-0 loss to visitors Mozambique on Sunday, but is content with what he has gathered so far after leading the team in two international friendlies.

Amancio Canhembe’s only goal spoilt the day for Kenyans who had witnessed an electrifying sporting weekend in the athletics with Eliud Kipchoge  breaking the sub-two hour marathon barrier as Brigid Kosgei set a new world women marathon record in Chicago.

The goal also left Kenyans dumbfounded as it was one of the few created chances in front of Kenya’s goal, yet it bore the sweetest fruit against numerous chances by the hosts that ended up in the smoke.

Kimanzi, who led Stars to a 1-1 stalemate just over a month ago against Uganda Cranes said team development continues.

“In the process of building a team, sometimes you stumble. That does not mean you have fallen all together. We are happy of the process but when you look at the reflection of the result you know it is important to win these international matches,” said Kimanzi.

One of Kenya’s 2019 African Cup of Nations AFCON stars who shone brightest at the showpiece, Joseph Stanley Okumu, was on spot for the Mambas’ goal, despite enjoying a good performance in the entire match.

“We got it wrong when a young player made a mistake and for sure when you make such a mistake at this level you are punished,” Kimanzi said reflecting on Okumu’s ball loss in the goalmouth as he attempted to dribble in the dangerous area.

Kimanzi has so far played several players who never found space in Stars when he worked under Sebastien Migne. Others who were regulars have not featured, and it remains unclear if they are part of his plans.

Zambia based Jesse Were for the first time played a part role in the game coming on as a substitute after long absence, but could not break the jinx of near 30 matches without a goal for Kenya.

 Goalkeeping jitters

In the absence of Patrick Matasi, Yanga SC’s Farouk Shikhalo started and although he was not handed serious tests, the former Bandari man looked uncomfortable in the few instances he had to deal with the unfamiliar opponents. Ian Otieno is still untested after being called up may be the only remaining option to the question if there is anyone around for now better than Matasi.

Okumu, partnering Joash Onyango for the first time in Stars’ squad, in highly competitive centre-back roles that have been recently covered by Mike Kibwage of KCB, Musa Mohammed and Johnstone Omurwa.

Francisco Muchanga(left) challenges Kenya’s Michael Olunga during Sunday’s friendly match at Kasarani. on October 13, 2019.Kenya lost 0-1.PHOTO/Stafford Ondego/Sportpicha/Citizen


Notably, Brian Mandela who has been missing since AFCON is a serious contender for a place in the defence, while from Kimanzi’s perspective, former Gor Mahia captain Harun Shakava has a chance following his recent call up. This leaves a lot of questions of whom to pick first when Stars travel to Egypt on November 11 for 2021 AFCON qualifier.

In the right back position, Sammy Mejja featured against Uganda, with injured Philemon Otieno’s fate in the national team still unknown. He was not part of the team for Mozambique as he’s still out nursing injury and is expected to be unavailable until  March next year.

The midfield has also seen radical changes under Kimanzi. He appears to have completely axed Dennis Odhiambo, who was a trusted servant under Migne. Spain based Ismail Gonzalez has been absent in the recent two international friendlies, as Cliff Nyakeya, Duke Abuya, Kenneth Muguna and Gor teammate Lawrence Juma found space.

Clifton Miheso has also somehow remained at the centre of Kimanzi’s plans in the midfield, while Tusker’s Boniface Muchiri was considered just for  the Uganda match. Bandari’s Collins Agade and AFC Leopards’ Whyvonne Isuza have been in the mix too. Zesco’s Anthony Akumu was called up again but never played, indicating he’s neither far not near to the team.

Although Kimanzi missed influential attacker Ayub Timbe, experienced Eric Johanna and dependable Johanna Omollo against Mozambique, it will be interesting to see how he will assemble his team for Mohammed Salah led Egypt next month, with all those options he has brought in his circle.

Even without goals in the two matches, Michael Olunga has shown he is still the man to watch among the Kimanzi’s tested strikers. One begging question is who could best partner him upfront in a 4-4-2 looking formation.

Against Uganda and  Mozambique he was so active with the most runs although he was not lucky enough to find the back of the net. With Were’s performance on Sunday mot so inspiring, just as Ulinzi Stars’ man Enosh Ochieng in his previous tests, thinking about the now almost forgotten John Avire is almost inevitable.

Clearly, another friendly before the Egypt assignment would be very important for Kimanzi, at least to clear the areas of doubt before the real competitive job kicks off.

The hard task will be narrowing down to the best 11, and 18 out of his now so large pool of talents.

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