Ten pop layers left out of Stars’ first 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifier match
As Kenya’s national football team, Harambee Stars, prepares to commence its 2022 Qatar World Cup campaign with a tie against rivals Uganda at Nyayo Stadium on Thursday, Edwin Otieno at looks at some influential players who were overlooked by head coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee during his squad selection
Currently the captain of MSL side CF Montreal where he has scored four goals in 37 appearances for the team since joining from English Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
Wanyama has been influential for the national team for more than a decade, earning the team’s captaincy in 2013. He has scored seven goals in his 64 caps for the country.
It was shocking for him to be omitted from the squad as Kenya seeks to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in history. He has missed Stars last two matches after being not called up.
Popularly known as ‘Tosh’, the highly rated midfielder who was born and raised in Dandora is currently playing in Turkey for BB Erzurumspor and has been one of the key players for the national team where he has earned 27 caps and scored six goals.
He can play both as a defensive and offensive player and has vast experience after featuring at some big European leagues including the Belgian top league.
His omission for the crucial qualifiers has left fans and pundits with more questions than answers.
The diminutive winger was part of the Belgian Golden generation players like Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne at the Gent academy where he joined at the age of 14 years.
He has been influential for the national team, earning a man-of-the-match award several times and it’s a shock that he is not part of Mulee’s plans for the World Cup qualifiers.
The player who parted ways with Japanese top league side Vissel Kobe two weeks ago has four goals for the national team with 24 caps.
Initially tipped to be the natural replacement of Victor Wanyama in the national team, the Union Omaha defensive midfielder has earned himself praise at club level after joining the side from local league giants Gor Mahia.
In his last club match where he steered his side to a 1-0 win over FC Tucson, he won 13 out of 18 duels and made 10 recoveries and four interceptions while completing 43 of 51 passes as they shut out the hosts.
A vital cog in Harambee Stars central defence ever since he earned his first call-up under Sebastian Migne, Onyango, who has stamped his authority with Tanzania giants Simba, was credited for keeping Liverpool star Mohammed Salah quiet when Stars played Egypt in a Afcon qualifier at Kasarani.
His partnership with Joseph Okumu during the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt was also commendable and it’s not clear why he has been omitted this time.
Tipped to be the next kid on the block in Kenyan football after single-handedly bringing down Zambia in an international friendly match at Nyayo Stadium with a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win and again being voted Stars’ player of the match against Comoros Island, it was expected that he would play a key role for Kenya in their road to Qatar 2022.
A regular player for English Championship side Barnsley, Oduor was once called to the national team by former head coach Francis Kimanzi and he played for roughly the last 10 minutes of an international friendly build-up match against Zambia.
He has never earned another call-up despite the fact that he is a key player at the English club and can be used both as a full-back or a winger.
‘Vieira’ as he is commonly known by many local fans, is one of the most underrated players in the country. Hee was a crucial player for Zambia champions Zesco United in the CAF Champions League and recently helping his new side Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa reach the finals of the Champions League after many years.
It is baffling that he was still not considered good enough for the national team. Akumu can play comfortably as a defensive midfielder and a central defender.
Mandela who is nicknamed ‘Niang’ was the first choice Harambee Stars central defender previously until he suffered a knee injury just before the 2019 Afcon competition.
Now fully recovered and enjoying a form of his life at South Africa’s league giants Mamelodi Sundowns, his experience would have been priceless at the heart of Stars defence as they seek to qualify for the global showpiece.
He may not have been tested at the international level, but the skillful midfielder is currently enjoying the form of his life that saw premier league champions Tusker rush for his services and signed a two-year contract with him last week.
Kibwana who had been nursing shoulder and ankle injuries for the better part of the season, proved his mettle when he resumed action for Kakamega Homeboyz, scoring eight goals in six matches in July, a feat that earned him the FKF PL player of the month award.
He could be of great help to the national team if his club form were to be transfered to the Stars.