Firat optimistic about Okumu, Ouma's return for 2026 World Cup qualifiers

Firat optimistic about Okumu, Ouma's return for 2026 World Cup qualifiers

Festus Chuma 13:00 - 23.05.2024

Firat is hopeful that key defenders Joseph Okumu and Erick 'Marcelo' Ouma will be available for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat is optimistic that defenders Joseph Okumu and Erick Ouma will be fit for next month’s World Cup qualifiers against Ivory Coast and Burundi.

 Both players have been sidelined due to injuries, causing significant concerns for Kenya’s national team as they prepare for these crucial matches.

Okumu, who has been plagued by recurring injury issues since joining Stade Reims from KAA Gent, has missed several international fixtures for Kenya. 

His hamstring and adductor injuries in November and February respectively, kept him off the pitch for crucial games.

Ouma, on the other hand, suffered a tear in his semimembranosus muscle at the beginning of the month while playing for Rakow Czestochowa in Poland.

Despite these setbacks, Firat remains hopeful about their recovery and potential availability. 

“Marcelo is with us and I am hopeful, and I expect Joseph to also arrive in camp,” Firat said.

 “The problem sometimes with African players in European clubs is that the clubs push the players not to play if they have small injuries. They don’t want them to get injured again injuries. But we will assess them here and see.”

The Turkish tactician is taking a cautious approach, emphasizing the need for thorough assessment before making any decisions. 

“We will have to see how they respond to training and evaluate their fitness levels. It’s crucial that we don’t rush them back too soon and risk further injury,” he added.

While the situation with Okumu and Ouma remains uncertain, Firat confirmed that striker Jonah Ayunga is definitively out due to a serious injury. 

Ayunga, who made his debut during the last FIFA friendly window, has been ruled out after medical evaluations confirmed the severity of his condition.

Harambee Stars have entered their third day of residential training in Nairobi, intensifying preparations for the qualifiers against the African champions and Burundi next month. 

Both matches are set to be played in Malawi, adding to the logistical challenges the team faces.

Kenya is scheduled to play Burundi on June 7, 2024, followed by a challenging encounter against the reigning Africa Cup of Nations winners, Ivory Coast, on June 11, 2024. 

Currently, Kenya sits third out of six in Group F of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, having secured three points from their opening two matches against Gabon and Seychelles.

With only the top team from Group F—comprising Ivory Coast, Gabon, Burundi, The Gambia, Seychelles, and Kenya—set to qualify for the 48-team World Cup in Canada, Mexico, and the United States every match is crucial. 

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