Harambee Stars: 5 things Kenya must get spot-on to upset the odds against Ivory Coast

Harambee Stars: 5 things Kenya must get spot-on to upset the odds against Ivory Coast

Mark Kinyanjui 08:57 - 11.06.2024

Pulse Sports looks at five things Harambee Stars must get right to stand any chance of upsetting Ivory Coast on Tuesday afternoon.

Harambee Stars will be facing Ivory Coast in their fourth World Cup qualifying match of Group F on Tuesday knowing that a win will revive their qualification chances following a disappointing 1-1 draw against Burundi last Friday.

Stars sit five points behind the current AFCON holders. They are third on four points, and time is running out for them to make amends if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for their first-ever World Cup.

Anything in football is possible. If Kenya are to upset the odds and beat Ivory Coast, here are five things they must adhere to:

1. Be ruthless in counter-attacking situations

If Harambee Stars are to upset the odds against Ivory Coast on Tuesday, they must be ruthless especially in counter-attacking situations.

Pulse Sports understands the side is set to switch to a 3-5-2 shape in order to counter Ivory Coast’s threat while using two strikers, and also the fact that the formation has an emphasis on creating numerical superiority.

This means that the African champions will try to possess the ball as much as possible, also considering the genuine on-the-ball quality they have. Although Kenya may be inferior in this department, they can still be ruthless in transitional situations.

They need to take reference from the Qatar friendly last September, where they were very relentless in counter-attacks and it worked for them.

The winning goal scored by Amos Nondi came from such a situation, where Ayub Timbe and Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma won the ball back quickly before it landed onto the feet of Johnstone Omurwa, who had the vision to spot and then pick out Michael Olunga with an accurate long ball over the top.

Olunga then held up the ball well and drove with it forward, before cutting it back to the onrushing Nondi. A classic counter-attack. If they draw reference to that game and believe, they can do it.

2. Maximise set-piece situations

Stars were wasteful in counter-attacking situations against Burundi as the executions were a waste of time, and so was the general level of anticipation and off the ball movement.

Against big nations, it is the small margins that will ultimately matter, and Stars must learn how to maximise on their aerial advantage to get a chance of gaining a result against Ivory Coast.

Stars beat Qatar with one of their goals scored straight from a set-piece situation, with Joseph Okumu heading the ball into the back of the net.

If they want to get a result, the deliveries must be spot-on, and they must genuinely test Yahia Fofana in the Ivory Coast goal with headers and direct shots from dead ball situations whenever possible.

3. Avoid unnecessary mistakes

Stars must avoid making schoolboy errors if they are to stand a chance of getting a result. They blew a good chance to get all three points against Burundi due to a mix-up at the back between Daniel Anyembe and Patrick Matasi.

This time, they should know that they have to be switched on because any mistake will get punished by the quality Ivory Coast possess. If they take things for granted, it may be ground hog day for them.

4. Be wary of Ivory Coast's dynamic midfield

Jean Michel Seri, Seko Fofana and Franck Kessie are three powerful midfielders with genuine ability to control the midfield.

Seri is capable of dictating possession with his passing, while Kessie and Fofana are runners with genuine on-the-ball quality. Stars may be in for a long afternoon, and that means, they will have to learn how to be switched on throughout.

They need to make sure that these players have no space whatsoever to make third-man runs or have the space to move into the channels especially as they will try to get forward whenever possible.

They must also make sure that they don’t have room to carry the ball forward.

5. Be disciplined & compact off the ball

Stars must make sure they are very disciplined without the ball to deny their opponents any space to cause damage.

They must also make sure that in the process, Ivory Coast players do not have the room to shoot from distance, because they will end up getting punished as a result.

Regardless, the whole point is to make sure the Ivorians do not have a lot of space off the ball to do their damage.

Teams are capable of putting two banks of four and then hitting on the break, including inferior teams. With Stars likely to switch ton a 3-5-2, it will make them even more compact, but they will have to maximise on their outlets through the wingbacks, especially Rooney Onyango.

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