Kenya hosts Ethiopia in the Afcon 2019 qualifiers Group F return fixture at the Kasarani Stadium Sunday with so much hope as they seek to make history.
The Harambee Stars head into the crucial tie atop the group on four points after edging out Ghana 1-0 in September and forcing a draw against Ethiopia Wednesday in Bahir Dar.
With Sierra Leone, the other group’s member, under Fifa suspension, a win for Kenya today will see them through to the Afcon set for Cameroon.
Kenya last featured in the championship 14 years ago when Stars graced the 2004 edition in Tunisia.
To ensure that jinx is broken, Kenyans have rallied behind the team as a show of solidarity and patriotism never witnessed in the recent past.
The government announced free entry to the 60,000 sitter capacity stadium, while Nairobi governor Mike Sonko pledged free transport using 150 buses to ensure a full house for maximum support.
Deputy President William Ruto visited the team’s morning training Friday, clearing their allowances amounting to Ksh 25 million ($250,000) while promising to pay a bonus of Ksh50 million if they beat the Waliyas.
Ruto also promised to deliver them a bus he had promised them when they won the 2017 Cecafa Senior Challenge next month.
Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama, who was wowed by a massive crowd of over 100, 000 fans at Bahir Dar Stadium Wednesday said that if they can get a similar backing at home then they can beat “any team.”
“With the crowd behind us from the first to the last minute, we will do something,” the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder added.
Japan-based striker Michael Olunga echoed Wanyama’s sentiments.
“We will try our level best to match our opponents and come Sunday, we hope to give Kenya something to cheer about,” the Kashiwa Reysol forward said.
The first leg was a tale of two halves with Kenya showing flashes of brilliance in the first stanza with Ethiopia running away with the second half.
Stars’ coach Sebastien Migne was generally cautious and guarded in his approach and was happy with the barren draw.
The Frenchman is equally measured with his words ahead of the return fixture, saying he is not a magician to promise a win.
“I can’t promise a win for Harambee Stars, I’m not a magician but I know my players will give their best,” the former Congo coach said.
With no injuries reported, Kenya is expected to field almost a similar starting eleven as in the first leg with Olunga and Paul Were starting in attack.
Wanyama, Dennis Odhiambo, Francis Kahata and Eric Johanna in midfield with Musa Mohammed, Brian Mandela, Abud Omar and Philemon Otieno in defense with Patrick Matasi between the sticks.
Probable Line Up (4-4-2)
Patrick Matasi – Musa Mohammed – Brian Mandela – Abud Omar – Philemon Otieno – Victor Wanyama – Dennis Odhiambo – Francis Kahata – Eric Johanna – Paul Were – Michael Olunga
The Ethiopians are a bit frustrated that they settled for a barren draw against Kenya in a packed Bahir Dar National Stadium Wednesday.
Ethiopia coach Abraham Mebratu is expected to stick with much of his starters from the mid-week game but a bit of change in strategy for his charges. Since it is an away game dominating in possession will be unthinkable for the Waliyas. Coach Mebratu told reporters that his charges will implement a sound game strategy on Sunday.
“We are now in make it or break it situation. We need to be extra careful in our defending. No room for mistake at the back and be very clinical in front of goal,” said the former Yemen national side boss.
Ethiopia has no injury concerns. Center back Asechalew Tamene recuperated well from a back injury that was feared to keep him out from the first leg. This is a morale booster for the Waliyas who are retaining a key defensive figure in the national side.
Winger Behailu Assefa and defender Salahdin Bargicho did not travel to Nairobi for the return leg ans are the only ones missing out the decisive encounter.
Finishing is still the headache in this Waliyas squad where creating scoring chances and problems in the buildup play has largely been seen in the previous matches. Only a win can revive Ethiopia’s hope of securing qualification to the 2019 Total African Cup of Nations.
“It will be a very big match for us. It will be like a final game. Both teams need three points so we will do our best to win the game,” added Mebratu.
In a packed Bahir Dar National, Ksh5.6 million (USD55,555) was gathered from gate fees by EFF.
The banishment of Sierra Leone from world football and CAF’s decision not to reschedule the Black Stars vs Leone Stars tie is hanging in balance. This will put Ethiopia in a predicament.
Probable Line Up (4-2-3-1)
Samson Assefa Abdulkerim Mohammed – Asechalew Tamene – Anteneh Tesfaye – Ahmed Reshid Gatoch Panom – Mulualem Mesfin Omod Okuri – Shemeles Bekele – Biniyam Belay Getaneh Kebede (C)
A joint preview with Bonface Osano (Kenya) and Omna Teddele Gebru (Ethiopia)
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