Former AFC Leopards coach points out tactical timidity in Harambee Stars draw against Ivory Coast

Former AFC Leopards coach points out tactical timidity in Harambee Stars draw against Ivory Coast

Festus Chuma 06:29 - 13.06.2024

A former AFC Leopards coach has critiqued Harambee Stars' overly cautious approach in their World Cup qualifier draw against Ivory Coast.

On Tuesday, Africa witnessed a tense showdown as Harambee Stars squared off against Ivory Coast in a crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Despite dominating the game, Harambee Stars could only secure a 0-0 draw, a result that former AFC Leopards coach Luc Eymael attributes to an excessive respect for the African champions.

Eymael, who coached Kenya's top club side in 2013 and steered them to a CAF Confederation Cup berth in 2014, expressed his disappointment after the match.

"The coach (Engin Firat) perhaps feared Ivory Coast because they won the AFCON. If you compare the Ivory Coast that played today and the Ivory Coast that won the AFCON, it's clear they are not the same team and seem to be rebuilding," Eymael explained as per Flashscore.

The match, which followed a disheartening 1-1 draw with Burundi, saw Kenya dominate, particularly in the opening half.

Yet, despite the tactical superiority and aggressive play, the scoresheet remained blank.

Harambee Stars' striker and captain Michael Olunga and Gor Mahia star Rooney Onyango were noted for missing crucial opportunities that could have changed the game's outcome.

"The fear factor was evident, and it's rare for a team to dominate a game as Kenya did but then come out with only a point," Eymael added.

The Belgian gaffer's observations highlight a critical moment of self-doubt that seemed to grip the Kenyan team, preventing them from converting their dominance into a win.

Despite the glaring missed opportunities, the Belgian coach acknowledged the tactical execution was on point.

"Kenya created a lot more chances than Ivory Coast and should have scored two or three goals. Unfortunately, they didn’t score, which allowed Ivory Coast to come back into the game and create two big chances," he stated.

While the draw keeps Kenya in the mix in their qualifying group, the result feels like two points dropped rather than one gained, especially given the circumstances of the game.

The pitch conditions and Ivory Coast's reliance on set-pieces were also factors, but as Eymael pointed out these should not have deterred a team playing with the confidence of Harambee Stars.

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