• Preparations have been our major undoing in the past and I am happy this time round we are getting it right.
• Stars have in the past four appearances recorded just one win in 15 group stage matches
As Harambee Stars gears towards their fifth appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations slated for June 21 to July 19 in Egypt, the utmost goal will be to navigate through a tricky pool in the group stage.
Stars have in the past four appearances recorded just one win in 15 group stage matches and this time round, going by their preparations, they are billed to break the jinx and write their name in the history books by qualifying for the knockout stages.
Poor preparations and inadequate funding have been largely blamed for the dismal performances at the continental showpiece but this year, the script is different as the government, through the Ministry of Sports have already played their role on time and in line with the financial requirements of the team.
And with this support, former Kenyan international John Baraza has challenged the players who will make the final 23-man squad to fully seize the moment and market their talents and the country.
Baraza, who was part of the team which graced the 2004 finals in Tunisia terms the continental platform as an easy bridge to professional careers for the Kenyan players plying their trade locally and to those playing in the lower tiers abroad.
Baraza, the Sofapaka head coach, argues that by players playing their hearts out, the outcome will pay dividends to the outstanding ones as scouts from all corners are set to monitor each and every duel with the intention of signing raw talents. He also believes that individual brilliance will be crucial if the team is to make any progress.
“This is a rare chance to a player and I would advise the final squad to give their all in Egypt. I know it’s a tournament and it calls for team spirit but the players should make good use of the platform and showcase their talents to the world. No one knows who will be watching and each and every player should play to the best of his capability for the benefit of his future and the national team. If each and every player gives their all, then winning matches will be easy,” observed Baraza.
Baraza, a lethal striker in his heydeys, is confident that the team will punch it’s way to the knockout stages despite being handed a tough pool. Kenya are in Pool ‘C’ alongside West African giants Senegal, Algeria and neighbours Tanzania.
The former Oserian forward wants coach Sebastien Migne to go for maximum points against Tanzania and at least muscle for even results against Senegal and Algeria a result which will see Kenya garner five points, enough to see them through.
“Chances of progressing past the group stages are high unlike what many people say. We have to beat Tanzania convincingly and perhaps fight for draws against Algeria and Senegal. The two are also beatable. If we use our chances well and have the right discipline, then we stand a chance of silencing them,” said Baraza.
He also notes that the players should strive to repay the country with positive results owing to the good preparations and remuneration put forward for the team.
The former Nzoia Sugar player recounts of their poor preparation ahead of the 2004 finals and has asked the players to fully concentrate on playing since everything has been catered for. The team is set to hold it’s training camp in Paris.
“Preparations have been our major undoing in the past and I am happy this time round we are getting it right. During the 2004 finals we did not have kits but special thanks to Kipchoge Keino for he shared with us some oversize Olympics branded kits,” added Baraza.
“I remember we were booked in a hotel next to that of the Rwandese national team and it was embarrassing to see how they were organised and well prepared. This year things are good and players have no excuses at all. They should focus on the pitch and reward the country with a good show in Egypt.”