Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire share the spoils in World Cup qualifier

Kenya vs Cote d’Ivoire

Kenya's Aphonce Omija (left) and Richard Odada (partially hidden) fight for the ball with Franck Kessie of Cote d’Ivoire during a 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Lilongwe on June 11, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • Kenya remains third in Group 'F' with five points from four matches.
  • African champions Cote d’Ivoire leads the group with 10 points.

Kenya settled for a scoreless draw with African champions Cote d’Ivoire in a 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier on Tuesday evening in Lilongwe, Malawi.

This was the second match that Harambee Stars have drawn in the qualifiers within a space of four days.

On Friday, Harambee Stars, who are using Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe as their home ground, were held to a 1-1 draw by Burundi.

Kenya remains third in Group 'F' with five points from four matches.

African champions Cote d’Ivoire leads the group with 10 points having won three matches and drawn one. 

Gabon, who have played three matches, are second with six points from two wins and a loss.

Burundi, The Gambia and Seychelles, who have all played three matches, have four, three and zero points respectively. 

This was the first meeting ever between the two nations.

Having won all their three previous matches of the group, and boasting of several European-based players, the Elephants came into the match as the favourites.

However, Harambee Stars put up a spirited fight to bring to a halt the African champions' winning streak.

In fact, Kenya could have upset Cote d’Ivoire had they capitalised on the numerous scoring opportunities they created.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat made only one change from the side that started against Burundi with defender Alphonce Omija replacing Clifton Miheso. 

On the other hand, the Elephants made five changes from the match, including the exclusion of Borussia Dortmund forward Sebastian Haller who missed the match due to injury. Haller failed to train with the rest of the team on Tuesday.

The match’s first shot on target arrived in the 28th minute when Kenyan captain Michael Olunga tasted Cote d’Ivoire’s goalkeeper Yahia Fofana with a free-kick from outside the box.

Kenya vs Cote d’Ivoire

Harambee Stars defender Alphonce Omija dribbles past Simon Adingra of Cote d’Ivoire during a 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe , Malawi on June 11, 2024.

Photo credit: Pool

 Stars were awarded the foul after Rooney Onyango was brought down after latching on a long pass.

Three minutes later, the Gor Mahia right-back again caused trouble for Cote d’Ivoire when he dribbled into the box, only for his cross to go begging.

Moments later, Cote d’Ivoire missed a great opportunity when an unmarked Seko Fofana fired wide after connecting to a loose ball outside the box.

In the 37th minute, Olunga should have done better than hitting his low shot wide.

On the stroke of halftime, Kenya's vastly experienced goalkeeper Patrick Matasi did well by parrying wide a well-taken free-kick.

In the second half, coach Firat rested Kenneth Muguna and Timothy Ouma for Chros Erambo and Duke Abuya.

Kenya‘s best scoring chance in this half arrived in the 71st minute when Olunga’s shot was cleared off the line. 

The hosts then survived a big scare in the 82nd minute when substitute Oumar Diakite hit the crossbar.

Just before the final whistle, Olunga failed to find the back of the net after he was overpowered by his marker, with his shot not troubling goalkeeper Fofana. 

With no stadium presently available in Kenya to host the qualifiers, Football Kenya Federation (FKF) has settled on the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe as the venue of Harambee Stars' home matches.

At the end of the qualifiers, the nine group winners will qualify directly to the 2026 Fifa World Cup while the four best group runners-up will compete in the inter-confederation play-offs for the final slot.