• Former Harambee stars goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng has urged current custodian Patrick Matasi to keep his calm and finish the job against Senegal in their last Group C match on Monday.
• Ochieng kept a clean sheet between the sticks in the last victory for Harambee Stars in the continental showpiece where Kenya beat Burkina Faso 3-0 in Tunisia 2004.
Former Harambee Stars goalkeeper Duncan Ochieng has urged the current custodian Patrick Matasi to keep his calm and finish the job against Senegal in their last Group C African Cup of Nations match on Monday, as they seek to qualify for the last 16 for the first time in history.
Ochieng kept a clean sheet between the sticks in the last victory for Harambee Stars in the continental showpiece, where Kenya beat Burkina Faso 3-0 in Tunisia 2004.
He believes Matasi is equal to the task despite howlers that have seen him get bashed by football fans online and pundits in equal measure.
Matasi was also at fault against Ghana in the qualifiers and against DR Congo in their last pre-Afcon friendly in Europe.
"Keepers are always remembered for any slight mistake but never get enough credit for good shows. However, teams that win titles always have outstanding keepers and defenders and therefore Stars defence must rise to the occasion despite the injuries.
“I have worked with Matasi at Tusker and his abilities are not questionable. He may have been at fault for the first goal against Tanzania after parring the shot back on target, but his defenders should take the blame for the second goal after being caught out of position," said Ochieng.
He added: "We face Senegal the highest ranked team in Africa on Monday and they have a better tactical approach and are more experienced with a better physique. Matasi, therefore, must communicate well with his defenders to avoid punishment by the lethal Teranga Lions front line led by Liverpool’s Sadio Manne."
Ochieng also believes bringing in a new keeper in the last group C match may not be the solution as this could turn out to be counterproductive. "The goalkeeper trainer Sunil Shah should just polish set-piece defending, distribution and time management to ensure our rear guard is safe," he added.
He said other keepers have taken the flak for similar mistakes in the tourney. "Burundian keeper Jonathan Nahimana was guilty of spilling the ball back to action and was caught napping to concede the winner from a free kick against Madagascar while Tanzania’s Aisha Manula was on the receiving end after his poor clearance found his way to Michael Olunga’s boot for the equaliser," he added.
The Tusker shot-stopper has also urged fans to rally behind the team and shun negative comments and insults that can lower players' self-esteem and morale at the big stage.
Ochieng, 39, is the only active goalkeeper in the Kenyan Premier League from the class of Tunisia 2004. The former Kenya One was the second choice to Francis Onyiso and he kept a sheet in their 3-0 win against Burkina Faso for Kenya’s first win in the tournament 15 years ago.