Firat voices concerns over local player standards after stalemate against Ivory Coast

Firat voices concerns over local player standards after stalemate against Ivory Coast

Festus Chuma 06:24 - 12.06.2024

Engin Firat has voiced concerns over local player levels after Kenya holds Cote d’Ivoire to a goalless draw in World Cup Qualifier.

Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat has voiced his concerns after Kenya managed to hold African champions Ivory Coast to a goalless draw in a 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi, on Tuesday afternoon.

The result saw the Elephants drop points for the first time in Group F, though they remain top of the log with 10 points from four matches.

Meanwhile, the Harambee Stars are third with five points but could drop down the order depending on results elsewhere before the end of Tuesday.

In a post-match interview, Firat highlighted the physical disparity between his players and their opponents.

“We played against Ivory Coast with mostly local players and I have said it many times that the players in the Kenyan league are not in the physical levels expected to play against this kind of big teams. Under such circumstances, I would say they did very well," he said as Passion Sports.

Firat’s comment comes three months after he similarly discussed the same issue.

In March, while appearing on TV47, the gaffer challenged local players to aspire to play in top leagues outside Kenya to improve their skills and enhance the national team’s competitiveness.

“My advice to our local players is that if they feel they are good enough, then they should seek to play in big leagues to improve not just their skills but also the competitiveness of Harambee Stars,” he said back then.

Going into the match, Firat missed several key players due to injuries, including striker Masoud Juma and defenders Dennis Nganga, Eric "Marcelo" Ouma, and Joseph Okumu.

This forced Kenya to rely heavily on local players, underscoring Firat's concerns about the physical readiness of players in the Kenyan league.

Kenya was also forced to relocate their matches to Malawi after the Kenyan government closed down all major stadiums for renovations, meaning no FIFA-approved venues were available.

During the game, Cote d’Ivoire controlled the possession in the first half but struggled to create clear opportunities to challenge Kenya's goalkeeper Patrick Matasi, who had to make only one save in the first 45 minutes.

The Harambee Stars, however, held firm in their defensive lines and managed to launch sporadic counter-attacks, though striker Michael Olunga often found himself isolated against central defenders Wilfried Boly and Evan Ndicka.

The trend continued into the second half, with the Elephants bringing on Oumar Diakite and Evvan Guessand to bolster their attack.

However, Kenya's defense remained resolute, even against later additions like Nicolas Pepe, Jean-Michael Seri, and Mohammed Diomande, who could not break through.

Ultimately, both teams settled for a draw, with Kenya certainly the happier of the two to have picked up a point against the reigning continental champions.

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