Ten things Kenya will need to realise World Cup dream

Monday, January 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Ayub Timbe vs Algeria. Photo/Courtesy

Harambee Stars were drawn with Uganda, Rwanda and Mali in Group E of the second round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers. It is a group that looks easy on paper, giving Kenyans hope that they can top it reach for the final round of the qualifiers. However, that will be down to how well they prepare. 

1. Early preparations

This cannot be overemphasized. Failing to plan is planning to fail, so goes the famous saying and Football Kenya Federation (FKF) cannot afford to get it wrong.

Already, Uganda have started planning, meaning the federation will also have to put proper plans in place to ensure the players are well taken care of, arrive on time and the technical bench has all the support they need.

With a conducive environment, coach Francis Kimanzi and his team will have ample time to craft a winning strategy since the squad is already blessed with talent.   

2. Proper build up

As part of their preparations, Harambee Stars will need to organise build up matches against teams that have been there and done it.

Friendly matches against African and Asian minnows like it has been in the past will do nothing to expose the gaps that need filling hence the need to source for quality build up matches.

For a proper run at the qualifiers, Kenya need friendly matches against teams like Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria Morocco or even European and South American heavyweights which then will give Kimanzi an indication of where we are and what was is needed. 

3. Get selection right

Part of the criticisms laid at Kimanzi’s predecessor Sebastien Migne was that he overlooked some players who had performed well when selecting his team for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).

Kimanzi will therefore have to do his homework well before coming up with his squad for these qualifiers. The advantage he has is that he is Kenyan and knows our players very well.

Going by his selections in the 2021 Afcon qualifiers already, he seems to be getting right. That will need to continue with the view of making it better. 

4. Have a tactical plan

Once the selection is right, then Kimanzi will have to come up with a proper tactical plan that will nullify the threat of Kenya’s opponents while helping Harambee Stars thrive.

Being too defensive will stifle Kenya’s offensive players while a carefree approach will leave them exposed at the back, hence the need to get the balance right.

However, Kimanzi has already proved that he can mix defensive solidity with a fluent attack as witnessed in Egypt during the first match of the 2021 Afcon qualifiers and more of that will be expected if they are to top their group and proceed. 

5. Win all home games

Part of the formula to topping Group E will be to ensure Harambee Stars win all their home games.

This will guarantee them nine points and one away win or even two draws on the road could suffice in their quest to qualify.

Harambee Stars will therefore have to make Kasarani Stadium a fortress like it was during the 2019 Afcon qualifiers and that, coupled with some positive results on the road, then a place in the final round of the qualifiers is well within reach. 

6. Motivate players

All these strategies will yield nothing if they are to be executed by players who lack morale.

Cases of players’ allowances delaying, flight tickets not sent on time or players using their own money to fly home and not refunded have been common and this often sees motivation among the squad dip. 

That is a recipe for disaster which will give Harambee Stars rivals an edge in this crucial phase.

Allowances will therefore need to be paid on time with outstanding balances cleared so that we have a fully-focused team in camp. 

7. Government support

Motivating the players, early preparations and build up matches require money and here is where the government comes in.

Since it is the responsibility of the state to take care of national teams, Kenya can ill afford a repeat of last year’s shenanigans where the Sports Ministry was being blamed for delaying funds meant to prepare national teams, pay players allowances and book hotels for for home and away matches.

New Principal Secretary Joe Okudo has said he wants to do things differently and there is hope that he can have a smooth working relationship with the federation unlike his predecessor Kirimi Kaberia. 

8. An organised FKF

By the time the qualifiers start in October, there is hope that FKF will have its house in order with the elections expected in March.

With that, the new office will then have time to focus on proper planning for the national team.

That includes sourcing for quality friendly matches, booking flights, hotels and paying allowances on time.

The new office will also be tasked with securing other sponsors for Harambee Stars who will shoulder some of the financial burden in case the government delays or gives little. This can only happen if there is proper organisation at the federation. 

9. Avoid off-field distractions

Players and coaches will only focus if the environment they work in is conducive.

Court battles, biases in selection, poor travel arrangements and non payment of allowances are just some of the things that have characterised national team assignments of such calibre in the past.

It ends up biting hard in the form of poor performances on the pitch. Given Nick Mwandwa promised us Qatar 2022 World Cup when he assumed office in 2016, he has to ensure these dramas do not end that dream. 

10. Get fans on board

The impact of the 12th man cannot be overstated. Fans act as extra motivation to the players and Kenyans already saw this during Harambee Stars match against Ethiopia at Kasarani Stadium in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers.

A repeat of that in Nairobi during all home matches will be vital and given Rwanda and Uganda are our next door neighbours, it will not be difficult travelling there.

However, FKF will have to come up with proper fan mobilization campaigns and market the matches so that supporters see the need to come to the stadium and travel away. 

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