Our big aim is Afcon 2027, Harambee Stars coach Firat says

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

What you need to know:

  • The result in Malawi did little good to Kenya’s World Cup ambitions.
  • On Friday, Harambee Stars were held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Burundi.

In Lilongwe, Malawi 

Kenya coach Engin Firat cut a dejected figure at the end of their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier Group 'F' match against Cote d’Ivoire at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi on Tuesday.

A vastly improved Harambee Stars failed to capitalise on the chances they produced in their promising but ultimately disappointing 0-0 draw against the African Champions 

“Today against the African champions I can actually say that we deserved to win. We had good chances and Cote d’Ivoire had the ball and only had one chance at goal,” Firat said.

“I know that plenty of people thought that we were going to lose with a big margin but even though the boys play in low leagues, if they’re united as a team and we follow our tactical approach we’ll have a chance to win even against the African champions,” he added.

Firat said he is now seeing a silver lining.

“We have a team with a lot of potential and the big aim is Afcon 2027,” he explained.

The result did little favour to Kenya’s World Cup qualification ambitions after they dropped points for the second consecutive time.

On Friday, Kenya were held to a 1-1 draw by minnows Burundi.

After four matches, the Elephants top the group with 10 points while Gabon, who have played three matches, are second with six points.

Harambee Stars, who have played four fixtures, are third with five points while Burundi, Gambia and Seychelles, who have all played three matches, follow in that order with four, three and zero points.

After a rather subdued outing against Burundi, Kenya were an entirely different outfit against Cote d’Ivoire.

In the pre-match press conference on Monday, Kenya captain Michael Olunga spoke of them having no fear and it showed in the first 10 minutes of play as Harambee Stars confidently passed the ball around and hogged possession.

But it was the African champions who threatened first on 24 minutes when midfield maestro Franck Kessie fired over the bar in the first shot on goal.

At the other end, Olunga got a chance at the edge of the box but shot wide when hitting the target looked easier.

Kenya’s best chance of the match fell to Olunga in the 71st minute. He broke away and fed Timothy Ouma who failed to beat the keeper in a one-on-one situation.

The ball fell kindly on Olunga’s feet but his effort was cleared off the line for a corner.

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.