4 things Harambee Stars must be dominant in to beat Burundi in crucial World Cup qualifier

4 things Harambee Stars must be dominant in to beat Burundi in crucial World Cup qualifier

07:11 - 07.06.2024

Four things Harambee Stars must be dominant in to overcome Burundi on Friday.

Harambee Stars will take on Burundi in the first of their two World Cup qualifiers at the Bingu National Stadium Lilongwe on Friday in Malawi with either team seeing the match as a must win.

Engin Firat's men head into the game unbeaten in their last five meetings with the Intamba and will welcome them to the Bingu National Stadium looking to extend this dominant run.

Firat will hope his side can retain their scoring form for the clash with Burundi, as historically neither nation has managed more than one goal in any of their six meetings.

However, the East Africans have dominated this fixture, recording three wins and two draws, with their only defeat coming in their very first encounter.

Here are four ways the Kenyans can keep that record intact:

1. Maximize aerial advantage

If Harambee Stars are to grab a fourth consecutive international win, they are going to have to maximize on their aerial advantage against the Swallows.

Stars have considerable height in their current squad. In the probable starting line up, the shortest starter will most likely be Aboud Omar, and the marauding left back himself stands at 5’11.

Given Burundi have been dangerous at creating counter attacking situations by spraying long balls over the top, the defenders are going to have to be alert in the air and ensure that no balls go their way.

During their 2-1 loss to Gabon, it was Johnstone Omurwa’s misreading of an aerial ball that led to their equaliser, scored through Dennis Bouanga. 

Sudi Abdouallah’s goal against Gambia back in their first match of group F was scored again after the side failed to deal with a long ball over the top yet again.

Stars will also have to use that aerial advantage up top thanks to Michael Olunga’s presence. During the September friendly win over Qatar, the winning goal by Amos Nondi was scored from such a situation. 

Omurwa whipped in a long ball over the top towards Olunga, who was able to chest it down to his feet and drove with it forward, before cutting it back to the former Gor Mahia man for the winner.

This attribute will go a long way in helping them make it six points for the campaign.

2. Be fearless with shots

Burundi are very good at putting men behind the ball in two banks of four, and displayed a great defensive display during their 3-2 win over Gambia.

Of the two goals the Gambia scored, one was from outside the box by Omar Folley, and that was only because it was impossible to create inside their box having put nearly 10 men in the box.

Firat himself is expecting Burundi to be very disciplined defensively, which means that ferocious shots from deep will be one way to dismantle their deep block.

Given Olunga has had the knack for scoring from long shots in recent games,  it will go a long way in trying to score from such situations.

3. Maximize Rooney Onyango’s quality

Gor Mahia right back Rooney Onyango is going to be so important to Harambee Stars’ chances of getting a win on Friday.

Since making his debut against Russia last October, he has gone on to score one and assist three times in five caps for the country.

Stars will be keen to use him as an outlet thanks to his verticality and ability to cross the ball accurately from deep.

He is also capable of winning fouls thanks to his ability to work his way through tight spaces and is a very athletic player.

Stars can certainly look to him to try and create chances to help deliver them a win.

4. Be wary of Burundi’s ability to progress passes from deep

Burundi have had the tendency to create by whipping long balls over the top from deep, especially using their full backs, who like to hit diagonal balls to their wingers, who then try to cause damage.

Stars will have to ensure that they are not naive with their pressing, which could leave gaps Burundi could exploit on the break.

Firat has clearly done his homework right on the Burundians before they face each other on Friday.

“We are facing a rival that has a very strong transition game, they play very fast from deep, they have a lot of fast players. 

“Therefore, I feel they will use the space they can get if we press them and to try and get long balls behind our defence but we are prepared for it,” Firat said on Thursday.