6 things learnt from Harambee Stars' underwhelming draw with Burundi


6 things learnt from Harambee Stars' underwhelming draw with Burundi

Mark Kinyanjui 08:45 - 08.06.2024

Six things we learnt from Kenya's frustrating 1-1 draw with Burundi in group F of the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers:

Harambee Stars were held to a 1-1 draw by Burundi on Friday afternoon to put a dent in their hopes to qualify for the 2026 World Cup which will be held in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

They will feel hard-done by, considering they were leading until a lapse in concentration resulted in an equaliser by the visitors.

They have their work cut-out to get a result against reigning AFCON champions Ivory Coast. Ahead of their second match on Tuesday, here are six things we learnt from that frustrating 1-1 draw.

1. Attacking set pieces need work

Harambee Stars are going to have to work very hard in terms of executing their set-pieces if they are to stand a chance of getting a good result against Ivory Coast on Tuesday.

The side won a lot of set-pieces during the match against Burundi in attack, but could not capitalise them. The deliveries were not up to scratch, and the side struggled to win their second balls.

Infact, there was a glorious opportunity that went begging early in the second half when Richard Odada whipped in a free-kick that caused confusion in the box after the Burundi keeper attempted to punch it away from the air, before the ball landed on a Harambee Stars player who just could not take advantage.

Considering the side find trouble creating chances from open play, maximizing set pieces is something that they are going to have to do in future.

2. Defensive mix-up

Another game where Harambee Stars shot themselves in  the foot by making a crucial mistake that cost them three points.

Stars looked like they were going to win that match, only for a defensive mix-up to spoil things again like it did two-and-a-half years ago against Uganda.

Sudi Abdallah outmuscled Daniel Anyembe to the ball before tapping it home against Patrick Matasi, who mistimed an attempted rush out, to send the traveling Burundi fans into frenzy.

This will feel like a glorious opportunity missed. Had they held on to their lead, they would have gained a crucial two more points which would have put them level with Gabon in group F.

3.Troubles facing defensive teams continue

Harambee Stars’ woes against defensive teams continued as they struggled to create real inroads for large parts of the game.

Burundi put two banks of four and opted to adopt a counter-attacking strategy to find the back of the net, and it worked for them. Infact, Stars are lucky not to have lost 2-1, because there was a moment when Burundi hit the post, having hit them on the break from a corner kick.

The only time they created real chances was when Firat subbed on both Duke Abuya and Austin Odhiambo. Austin tried to speed things up with his ability to play short, crisp, combination-play passes, and he is the one who got the assist for that Abuya opening goal.

However, Burundi restored parity out of nothing, and you just knew the game would end as a draw.

This is a situation that affected them when they lost 1-0 to South Sudan at the Kasarani Stadium last September during an international friendly.

4. The team need to do a lot of work in possession

While Stars have proven they are dangerous in counter-attacking situations, creating chances when they have loads of possession needs work. A Lot of horizontal passing, but with minimal penetration.

For large parts of that game, they attempted to build up the play from the back, but it was without purpose.

 All three midfielders barely wanted to make themselves available to receive the ball, and the game showed that Kenya lacked someone who could receive the ball on the half-turn from deep and then drive with it forward.

There were also several misplaced passes, one could have been forgiven for thinking that it was an under 12s mach. Also, the lack of cohesion was shown in the fact that several players were  being given a fair chance for the first time, such as the defensive partnership of Anyembe and Johnstone Omurwa, as well as Rooney Onyango and Timothy Ouma on the right.

They cannot afford to give the ball away naively against Ivory Coast.

5. Home support was missed

The traveling Burundi supporters rallied behind their team while Kenya barley had any fans attending the stadium, yet ironically, it was supposed to be a home match for them.

The supporters roared when Burundi netted the equalizer, and you have the feeling that Kenya could have done better with home support.

The side are currently forced to play their games outside the country owing to the closure of stadia for renovations, but it is worrying that the country lacks any stadia that meet international standards.

6. Embarrassing documentation mix-up

Three players were unable to play the match against Burundi due to some documentation mix-up, including Bristol City’s Zak Onyego Vyner, who will have to wait until Tuesday to make his debut for Kenya.

John Avire is another player who was forced to sit on the stands, alongside Tobias Knost, another new call-up.

Firat never hid how he truly felt about the matter at full time.

“We have six players who are injured, but today, we missed three players because of some mistakes. We made all tactical training with Vyner. If Zak was on the field today, we would have won 100 percent and 2-0 minimum.” Firat told the media after the match.

“Sometimes, people should look beyond the field because here, I have learnt not to speak. Things which look so simple can be very difficult in Kenya.”

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