Thirsting for tickets to the 2010 World Cup/African Cup of Nations finals, Kenya’s Harambee Stars beat Zimbabwe 2-0 on Saturday to top the group standings with six points.
Kenya, drawn against Guinea, Zimbabwe and Namibia in Group Two of the qualifiers, are leading the standings with six points and five goals.
Inspired by the large turnout, which saw Kenya Football Federation officials lock ticket holders out of the fully-packed Nyayo National Stadium, Italian-based attacking midfielder MacDonald Mariga opened the score-line in the eighth minute.
The rest is history. It is worth noting that Kenyans, hitherto disappointed by the Stars’ poor show in recent international events, are now finding their way back to the stadium, thanks to a fairly good start in the World Cup campaigners.
With the qualifiers at the mid-point stage, it might be too early to heap praise or celebrate the Harambee Stars’ exploits, but beating bigwigs Guinea and Zimbabwe is a key accomplishment that has seen Kenya clear major hurdles.
But the real work begins this weekend when Zimbabwe hosts Kenya in the return match in Harare.
It is an open secret that Kenya’s away record is not the best and it goes without saying that in Harare, Zimbabwe will enjoy home ground advantage and prove a hard nut to crack.
A draw or victory in Harare will be a major boost to Kenya’s bid for the Nations Cup and 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but more so the Nations Cup finals in Angola.
Three key factors have contributed to Kenya’s good start in the campaign – moral boosting support from Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, a retired soccer player, players’ focus and the generous support/sponsorship by Kenya Premier League Limited (KPL).
A lot will also depend on how new coach Francis Kimanzi handles the team and his strategies for away matches.
Kimanzi holds a Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) B International Coaching Licence and an International High Level Coaching Certificate from the Dutch Football Academy (KNVB).
A lot depends on Kimanzi and a lot depends on KPL and other stakeholders.
But for now the focus is on Kimanzi and Harambee Stars. Will they retain the momentum? The answer is yes. Panapress .