What you need to know:
- Captain Michael Olunga scored a brace, while Masoud Juma, Rooney Onyango and Benson Omala scored a goal apiece for Stars in the Group “F” match. The win saw Kenya extend their unbeaten run against Seychelles to six matches.
- “I’m quite sure about this team and every player understands what is going on. I think Kenyan football now has a bright future,” said Firat after his side’s big win over the Pirates.
Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has said that the future of Kenyan football is bright and that the team is firmly in the race to qualify for the 2026 Fifa World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Stars Monday night got back on track their qualifying campaign for the global championship with a 5-0 rout over minnows Pirates of Seychelles at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.
Captain Michael Olunga scored a brace, while Masoud Juma, Rooney Onyango and Benson Omala scored a goal apiece for Stars in the Group “F” match. The win saw Kenya extend their unbeaten run against Seychelles to six matches.
“I’m quite sure about this team and every player understands what is going on. I think Kenyan football now has a bright future,” said Firat after his side’s big win over the Pirates.
“People should not forget that we are the only team (in the pool) which played two matches away therefore we are very much in the race even though we started with a loss. I think now everyone has realised that this is a different Kenya, one which is ready to compete, hungry and not happy with any loss.”
Kenya started the 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 loss to hosts Panthers of Gabon at Franceville Stadium in Franceville City last Thursday.
Juma netted Stars’ consolation goal in the match where the Firat’s charges played poorly. The coach said that had all his key players been available for the match against the Panthers, they would be topping the pool.
Defenders Joseph Okumu, Eric Ouma, Daniel Anyembe are among the important players who missed the match due to injuries.
“You saw in the match against Gabon, we did not pass so well like we did against Russia and Qatar because we had problems opening the game and this is normal. If we could be a full team against Gabon, now we would be with six points. This is the reality and I don’t care what other people are saying but what they boys are doing,” said the coach.
Having thrashed visitors Pirates 9-0 and defeated Gambia 2-0 at the Benjamin Mkapa Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania on Monday, favourites Cote d’Ivoire top the pool with six points.
Gabon, who thumped Burundi 2-1 in their other match of the pool, have also garnered six points but with an inferior goal difference.
While Kenya and Burundi have all amassed three points each, the former are ranked ahead courtesy of a superior goal difference.
Gambia and Seychelles have no point having lost in all their two matches. Firat said that while his charges played well against Seychelles, he is not happy with the numerous scoring chances that they wasted since it denied Kenya a “historic win.”
He heaped praise on Omala, Onyango and debutante Dennis Nganga who earned a late call up in the team following the unavailability of Okumu.
While maintaining the Kenyan squad will be at its prime in the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be co-hosted by Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Firat said the new blood increases competition in the team thus good results.
“We are still a team which is learning. I’m happy that today also some young players scored and it makes everything in the team better for us because of rivalry,” said the Turk.
“Everybody was wondering who the next central defender will be and we put out Dennis and he has done quite a good job. We now have a good family which will be ready for all the tournaments and like I said before, this team will be at its prime at Afcon in Kenya. Then, we will show Africa who we are but now we do our best to make a miracle.”
The 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers resume in June 2024 with Kenya hosting Burundi and Cote d’Ivoire. Kenya has never qualified for the global showpiece.