Firat reveals the most valuable thing Harambee Stars gained in Malawi ahead of Ivory Coast challenge

FOOTBALL Firat reveals the most valuable thing Harambee Stars gained in Malawi ahead of Ivory Coast challenge

Mark Kinyanjui 19:45 - 29.03.2024

Harambee Stars boss Engin Firat has revealed the biggest thing his squad have gained in Malawi that could help them overcome Ivory Coast and Burundi in Nairobi in June.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat has revealed the biggest thing he feels his charges have gained from the Malawi Four Nations tournament that could help them when they face Ivory Coast and Burundi when their World Cup qualifying campaign resumes in June.

Kenya beat Malawi 4-0 in the opening match last Saturday, before following it up with a 3-1 win over Zimbabwe to take the trophy home.

The Kenyans will now regroup in three months’ time for the qualifiers, but will be full of confidence following their display.

Firat, who had insisted he would be using the tournament to gauge how his boys would fare, rather than the trophy, has now revealed what he thinks they have learnt the most.

“For us, the most important thing is to learn. You could see some of the boys at the beginning of the final could not handle the pressure and conceded a very simple goal,” Firat stated.

“We didn't start the match well, but when you have so many players who do not have any experience, of course they sometimes have problems but we got better in the match minute by minute, and after that, Zimbabwe only made long balls and no through passes .

“I hope this will give them confidence ahead of the June World Cup qualifiers.”

Firat has admitted that the quality of the Malawi tournament was much higher than he had anticipated, and feels his squad -most of whom lack experience internationally- have gained valuable lessons before June.

“This tournament was at a much higher level than I thought to be honest because the tempo in all matches you could see was very high,” Firat said.

“It was very good for us. It was like an official World Cup qualifying match (game against Zimbabwe), so it was good to see the boys under this pressure and tempo and it helps me a lot as a coach to understand who will be ready in June.”

Kenya have three points in Group F after their 5-0 thrashing of Seychelles in November which came after a 2-1 loss away to Gabon.

The Ivorians lead the group with the maximum six points from two matches, same as Gabon, after destroying Seychelles 9-0 before beating the Gambia 2-0 after which they went on to win the delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations against all odds.

Like Kenya, Burundi also have three points, while the Gambian and Seychelles are pointless, setting up epic battles in June given only the top team will seal a direct ticket to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico.