•While admitting that he did not have enough time to prepare the squad effectively for the crunch tie, Firat expressed confidence in his team’s capacity to stun the hosts in their backyard.
•Firat expressed dismay at the absence of key squad members who have previously contributed to the team’s success.
Harambee Stars’ head coach, Engin Firat, has advised fans to set reasonable goals for his charges as they embark on a gruelling 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign.
Firat made the remarks on Wednesday morning moments before the team boarded a plane to the West African nation. The outspoken Turkish gaffer tipped his squad to baffle detractors in their eagerly-awaited match-up with Gabon.
The Kenyan lads tackle the Panthers in Franceville today, buoyed by a strong showing against Russia in an international friendly last month.
While admitting that he did not have enough time to prepare the squad effectively for the crunch tie, Firat expressed confidence in his team’s capacity to stun the hosts in their backyard.
“It’s been a long journey. After two years of waiting, we finally have official matches,” Firat said.
“I’m glad we have a team now, but we still need more time to work on tactical details. We’re still working on building the team. People must understand that the national team does not train on a daily basis, which has an impact on preparation. For example, before this trip, we only trained for a day with the current team,” he noted.
Firat expressed dismay at the absence of key squad members who have previously contributed to the team’s success. “We are unfortunate this time around because many of our players who usually comprise the first team will be missing in action,” Firat stated.
“However, a solution must be found. The group we are traveling with must have the same level of character that we have seen in previous games. For instance, in the Russian encounter, we rallied from behind to secure a two-all draw despite the goalkeeper being hurt early in the game.”
The tactician disclosed that he has a lengthy list of gifted players he can easily turn to when push comes to shove, citing Dennis ‘Pajoe’ Ng’ang’a as an example.
The former Gor Mahia center-back, currently plying his trade for Zanaco FC in the Zambian Super League, was called up to the team at the eleventh hour to plug in the void left by Joseph Okumu and Brian Mandela.
Whereas Okumu is nursing a serious knock he suffered during a league match, Mandela requested to be excluded from the team to concentrate on the African Football League, where he featured for South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns who clinched the title.
“What people must understand is that we have a large list of 50 players whose performance we constantly monitor. We have been closely observing Ng’ang’a’s performance from the time he was with Gor Mahia until now when he is with Zanaco in the Zambian Super League,” Firat stated.
“As a coach, you have to decide when to bring a player into the team, and we thought that this was the best moment to have him around,” he added.