Kenya vs Zimbabwe: Six things learnt from Harambee Stars' heroic victory over Warriors

FOOTBALL Kenya vs Zimbabwe: Six things learnt from Harambee Stars' heroic victory over Warriors

Mark Kinyanjui 07:00 - 27.03.2024

Here are some of the lessons that we learnt from Harambee Stars' victory over Zimbabwe.

Harambee Stars came from behind to beat Zimbabwe 3-1 to win the Malawi Four Nations tournament on Tuesday evening.

Although it was only  a friendly tournament, several lessons were learned from the tournament that the side will have to pay keen attention to ahead of its matches against Ivory Coast and Burundi at home in the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Without further ado, here are some of the lessons we learnt from the tournament about the Kenya national football team:

Ill-tempered affair

Although a friendly match, the game turned out to be an ill-tempered affair that was marred and overshadowed by a lot of questionable refereeing decisions that irked both teams.

There was a moment in the second half where both sets of staff and substitute players stormed onto the pitch, including Engin Firat, as both sides tried overwhelming the center referee, who ended up dishing out three red cards.

Two red cards were issued to Zimbabwe, white one was given to Richard Odada of Kenya moments later for a foul.

The referee Godfrey Nkhakananga generally struggled to control the game, and one would have been forgiven for thinking he was using the match to teach himself how to officiate.

Firat’s brave Erambo-Muguna decision

In the 24th minute of the match, Engin Firat made the brave decision to sub off Chrispine Erambo for Kenneth Muguna after the side struggled to get a foothold of the game, having gone down to a Joseph Okumu own goal early in the game.

It was humiliating for a newbie in Erambo to have gone off that early, but it worked wonders for the team as Muguna gave the side some attacking impetus with his creativity.

In the end, it also inspired the side to score three goals courtesy of birthday boy Michael Olunga, proving Firat’s decision was a gamble worth taking.

Olunga edges closer to smashing Oliech’s record

Vincent Mahiga could make it difficult for Marcelo to easily win his place back

Michael Olunga scored a hat trick against the Warriors to make it his seventh goal in three caps for the side.

In so doing, he reached the 29 cap mark, which now leaves him just five shot of breaking the record set by Dennis Oliech during his career for the side.

If he goes on with his scoring rate, he will have become the record goalscorer by September this year, which will be a huge achievement considering the stick he has gotten recently.

Mahiga grabs chance

AFC Leopards defender Vincent Mahiga has definitely grabbed his chance with both hands.

Keep in mind that this was a player that was not even supposed to be in Malawi, and only got called up because Aboud Omar was involved in an altercation with Erick Johana Omondi, which resulted in both players being sent away from camp.

Mahiga has looked mature in both his outings for the side. He has offered overlapping runs to his winger Ayub Timbe, and defensively, has looked the part, using his recovery pace to track and make inch-perfect tackles throughout the tournament.

He will surely have put himself in a good place for the June qualifiers, and on merit, Erick Marcelo Ouma, who missed the tournament through injury, will have to fight hard to win his place back.

Ayub Masika is back

Ayub Masika looks like he has finally won his place back from the flanks after a few years of failing to be in the team mostly through injuries.

He has given the side fresh impetus given his pace, as well as ability to create one v one situations from the flank which have been a source of creativity. 

The Azerbaijan-based player seems to have gotten over his injury issues as well, which had hindered his influence for the side.

If he can stay fit, he is going to be a very important part of the team’s immediate future.

Joseph Okumu can’t catch a break

For the third time in six caps, Joseph Okumu was directly at fault for the opposition’s fast starts. He scored an unfortunate own goal very early in the game, which added to the errors he made during the matches against South Sudan and Russia last September.

The back does not stop with him entirely though, as Harambee Stars have proven that they tend to start slow and pick momentum as games continue.

This is an issue Engin Firat and his coaching staff will have to find a solution to, and quite quickly.

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