What you need to know:
- Despite leading 1-0 at half-time courtesy of Masud Juma’s 40th minute header, a dismal performance in the second half saw the hosts level through US based midfielder Dennis Bounga's close range shot
- Firat said that, had his charges converted the chances they got before their opponents levelled, they would have killed the game
- Harambee Stars are already in Cote d'Ivoire where they will face Seychelles at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Monday
Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has blamed luck and the absence of key players for the 2-1 defeat to Gabon in their opening Group 'F' qualifier of the 2026 World Cup on Thursday evening.
Kenya lost 2-1 to Gabon in the Group 'F' duel staged at the Stade de Franceville. Despite leading 1-0 at half-time courtesy of Masud Juma’s 40th minute header, a dismal performance in the second half saw the hosts level through US based midfielder Dennis Bounga's close range shot.
Harambee Stars then conceded in the 88th minute via a screamer from Red Star Belgrade midfielder Guelor Kanga.
Harambee Stars are already in Cote d'Ivoire where they will face Seychelles at Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny Stadium in Abidjan on Monday.
Despite many football fans feeling that the national team players underperformed against Gabon, Firat gave his players a pat on the back, saying they did well against a strong Gabonese side.
"When you think about how many players were missing and I can’t really say something to the boys, they fought well and we were unlucky. It was not really our day. We lost a lot of energy after Gabon equalised but missed a good chance towards the end but were unlucky,” said Firat, 53.
Among the key players who missed the game due to injuries are foreign based defenders Joseph Okumu (Reims, France), Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma (AIK, Sweden) and Daniel Anyembe (Viborg, Denmark) .
Firat said that had his charges converted the chances they had before their opponents levelled, they would have killed the game.
The former Moldovia tactician said he will not dwell on the loss but his full attention is now on the Seychelles game on Monday.
He revealed that he hopes to have all players available for the game as he targets his first win with Kenya in a competitive match.
“We have to focus on winning our next match against Seychelles. Though the loss was disappointing, it doesn’t change our mind and future. Our next match is a must-win because we need these points and I hope we will have our full squad. This group is closely contested,” added Firat.
Kenya had a good game in the first half and after Masud Juma's header, captain Michael Olunga missed the best chance to kill the game when in a good position to score but chose to head into the waiting hands of Gabon custodian Anse Ngouby.
Even as Firat provides luck and feels his boys did well, football fans seem tired of him and have castigated his coaching tactics, thus calling for his exit from the national team.
“The faster we offload Firat the better if we are serious with the national team. We can just have a coach who is just good in pie-chart presentation and poor in-field tactics,” wrote a football fan Alex Ngare on Facebook.
The fans have also singled out Olunga, who they castigated for underperforming with the national team but bagging goals at will with Al Duhail in Qatar Stars League.
Olunga has scored seven goals with Al Duhail but none with the national team in the last five matches. Olunga last netted for Kenya in 2-1 loss to Iran in a friendly game back in March.