Optimism abound that this qualification campaign maybe the one in which Harambee Stars will end their 15-year wait to reach the African Cup of Nations finals.
The last two results— a win against Ghana and the midweek draw against Ethiopia—have left Harambee Stars on top of their group as they prepare for the return leg clash against the Walya Antelopes at Moi Stadium, Kasarani tomorrow.
It’s not hard to see why hopes are high about this Sebastien Migne’s Stars. But the job will need to be done on the pitch regardless of what many feel outside of it.
With every stakeholder pulling all stops to ensure nothing derails Stars realistic bid of reaching the Afcon finals in Cameroon next June, the ball is now in the players courts.
Upon the teams landing from Ethiopia on Thursday night, skipper Victor Wanyama commended his teammates for putting up a gallant fight in the goal-less draw on Wednesday and further called out on fans to fully rally behind the team tomorrow.
“I want to congratulate my teammates for their mental strength. We however still have a job to do on Sunday,” said captain Wanyama.
Migne is unlikely to make any alterations to his starting eleven given how solid form they have been enjoying in the last two outings—the first time the Kenyans have kept back-to-back clean sheet—in the qualifiers.
“It was not easy playing at the fully packed stadium. I want to commend my players for giving their best and I am confident that we will get a positive result on Sunday,” said coach Migné in the aftermath of the Ethiopia stalemate.
For left back Aboud Omar, who limped off in the last match, has been given until the last minute to prove he is fit to start.
Unlike the last time when Michael Olunga was a largely left to feed on craps, the Kashwia Reysol striker should expect improved service from Francis Kahata, Eric Johanana and the attacking players behind him.
Olunga sharpness in front of goal is something that Migne will urge his players to constantly capitalise on and give him opportunities to test the Ethiopian rear guard.
Stars will, however, have to be wary of the fleet-footed Ethiopia attackers particularly the double act of Bekele Godo and Gatoch Panom.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the final decision over the ramifications of suspending Sierra Leone, victory will give Stars the necessary wind in the sails ahead of their potential crunch final day decider with Ghana in March.