by John Kwoba NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The Harambee Stars, Kenya’s national football
team, have given fans a chance to dream how far the team may go
on return to the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after a win and
draw in their build up.
The team, which departs for
Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday ahead of the start of the tournament on
Friday, has been supported by the government, giving fans
optimism that this batch of players may rewrite history and
reach the quarterfinal stage for the first time in their sixth
appearance at the AFCON.
"Our target is to get to the quarterfinals.
"But we have to navigate through the group stage first and
that is where our assignment starts. Certainly, Harambee Stars
is not going to Egypt to see the pyramids. We are not tourists.
"Harambee Stars mean business in the AFCON," said head coach
The Harambee Stars go back to their base in France from
Madrid, Spain where the team was held to a 1-1 draw by the
Democratic Republic of Congo in their second and final
international friendly match ahead of the AFCON, which starts on
June 21 to July 19.
The match saw Kenya concede an 86th minute Arthur Masuaku
equalizer which neutralized a fine first-half strike by Michael
Kenya has been pooled in Group C alongside the Desert Foxes
of Algeria, Senegal’s Teranga Lions, and Tanzania’s Taifa Stars.
The first match on June 23 will see the Stars take on
Algeria. Tanzania will be up next on June 27, before Kenya wind
up their group stage matches against Senegal on July 1.
There are six groups of four teams with only the top two
assured automatic ticket to the second round of 16.
Four other best third placed teams will join in to make the
16 teams that will go on for the knockout stage to determine the
Senegal and Algeria are alongside Kenya and Tanzania, who
have only qualified once before in 1980 - are in Group C.
It is not hard to establish that Senegal are the favorites.
They are the highest-ranked African team with a star-studded
As for who will join them in the next round, Algeria is the
Tanzania will likely bow out early but whether Kenya will
join them or upset the Teranga Lions remains unclear.
Migne believes Kenya, and by extension East Africa, is fast
closing the gap, having entered four teams - Kenya, Uganda,
Tanzania, Burundi - in the finals.
"The big difference in quality, between teams is not really
there anymore, like it was 10 years ago in Africa.
"Now every team has players who play in Europe so they have
the experience to play at a high level.
"But when you want to win a big tournament like the Africa
Cup of Nations you have to win against small and big teams," he
This will be Kenya’s sixth appearance.
All five of their previous attempts to make the knockout
stage ended in failure.
The Harambee Stars have won only one of the 14 AFCON games
they have played beating Burkina Faso 3-2 in 2004.
The remaining have been 12 loses and one draw.
In the qualifiers, they finished only two points behind Ghana
and will thus be hopeful of upsetting their Group C rivals.
Senegal does not boast the best of records at the AFCON.
While the Lions of Teranga have long been a formidable side
in Africa, they are yet to win their continental cup.
Regardless, they topped their group in the qualifiers and are
one of the favorites.
Mane and company are not ranked 23 in the world and number
one in Africa for no reason.
In other groups, Egypt’s Pharaohs lead pool A, which also has
Uganda Cranes, Democratic Republic of Congo’s Leopards and
Zimbabwe. Many expect the Pharaohs to soar through.
The Egyptians may have Mohammed Salah to unleash at their
will to torment the defenses, but it is critical to note that
Uganda are well organized under Sebastien Desabre, are
hard-working and defensively stout. Critically, Uganda Cranes
defeated Egypt during the recent World Cup qualifying campaign.
Both Zimbabwe and the DRC have talented attackers who could
also trouble the hosts, and the Pharaohs can’t take anything for
granted after this draw.
Egypt’s assistant coach, Hany Ramzy, said after the draw in
April that the Pharaohs were "comfortable" with their pool.
"We are confident, we are here in our land with the
supporters behind us, so we have to work hard to reach the
Group F has defending champions Cameroon, who were stripped
the hosting rights in January.
They face Ghana, Benin and Guinea-Bissau.
This group presents another case of underdogs versus
Guinea-Bissau and Benin will aim to upset defending champions
Cameroon and four-time winners Ghana.
In Group B, Madagascar and Burundi are making their AFCON
debuts and are viewed as minnows but they have proved that they
can get the job done against much more established sides.
Both are capable of stunning a Nigeria and Guinea side who
can run out of ideas in the final third.
In Group D, Morocco bounced back to top Group A, while the
Cote d’Ivoire progressed as Group H runners-up behind Guinea.
South Africa needed a final-matchday victory over Libya to
progress after being inexplicably held in the Seychelles, and
Namibia’s joy at their first qualification since 2008 was
dampened by a 4-1 loss to Zambia.
They’ll have their work cut out in the ‘Group of Death’.
However, it’s hard to see Namibia troubling the other three
teams, but South Africa’s defensive solidity could make life
difficult for either of the group’s other big sides.
If they can finish above Morocco or Cote d’Ivoire, then one
of these giants could be forced to face Nigeria or Egypt in the
Round of 16.
In Group E, Mali were one of five teams who went through
qualifying unbeaten, while Tunisia should prevent slip-ups,
particularly against the group’s weaker duo Mauritania and
The North Africans have reached the knockouts in nine of
their last 12 AFCONs.
Kenya team moves to Cairo
ahead of AFCON kick-off
NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
Kenya’s national football team Harambee Stars has
wound up its training base in Paris and moves camp to Cairo,
Egypt ahead of Friday’s start of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Head coach Sebastian Migne said Tuesday that Harambee Stars
will make an impact progress to the round of 16.
"Certainly we are not going to Cairo as tourists.
"We start off against Algeria in our first match, we will try
and give them a hard time and get a good result," said Migne.
The 2019 AFCON is set to run from June 21 to July 19. Kenya
has been away from the tournament for 15 years and it was not
until the expansion of Confederation of African Football (CAF)
from 16 to 24 teams that it gained a slot.
But Migne believes it is down to merit and they deserve some
respect on return to the continent’s biggest football
"Football is always about pressure.
"When you have pressure it means you can compete at the
"It is an honor to be here and we deserve every moment," said
Kenya winds up its 19-day residential training in what has
been the country’s best preparation, which has led fans to have
high hopes of Harambee Stars doing better.
Stars played two friendly matches, winning 1-0 against
Madagascar in Paris and sharing the spoils with the DRC in
Madrid after a 1-1 draw.
Kenya has been pooled in Group C alongside Algeria, Senegal,
Harambee Stars first match will be against Algeria on June
Tanzania will be up next on June 27, before the Senegal game
on July 1.
Only the best two teams out of the six groups plus four best
third placers will make the cut into the round of 16.
"We need to be humble and realistic in our expectations and
the fans have to learn to support the team in good and bad
"The players have already written one part of the story by
qualifying for the AFCON finals.
"They will show good value, spirit and are ready to die for
the team," Migne added.