Okumu, Marcelo &  AFC Leopards' Mahiga among 10 names missing in latest Harambee Stars squad

Okumu, Marcelo & AFC Leopards' Mahiga among 10 names missing in latest Harambee Stars squad

Festus Chuma 17:00 - 20.05.2024

The latest Harambee Stars squad for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers omits several key players, raising questions about strategy and fitness.

After head coach Engin Firat unveiled the provisional squad for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, several notable absences have stirred discussions among fans and analysts alike.

With crucial matches against Burundi on June 7, 2024, and Ivory Coast on June 11, 2024, the composition of the team is pivotal. 

Pulse Sports takes a closer look at the significant players missing from the lineup and the implications of their absence.

Michael Olunga

Michael Olunga, the current captain and a towering figure in Kenyan football, is notably absent from the list.

 With 29 goals for the national team, Olunga is just five goals shy of suppasing William 'Chege' Ouma as  Kenya's all-time leading scorer with 35 goals.

This season, Olunga was prolific for Al Duhail in the Qatar Stars League, securing fourth place in the Golden Boot race with 16 goals. 

His absence was expected to be a significant blow for the Harambee Stars, especially at a time when his experience and goal-scoring prowess are most needed. However, coach Engin Firat has since rescinded the decision following online protests from fans.

The decision to omit Olunga may be tactical or precautionary, but it has not been explicitly clarified by Firat. 

The striker's leadership and on-field chemistry with teammates have been integral to the team's recent performances. 

As the team prepares for crucial qualifying matches, Olunga's absence could alter the dynamics of Harambee Stars' attack, forcing Firat to test new formations or rely more heavily on younger forwards.

Eric ‘Marcelo’ Ouma

Eric Ouma has been a consistent presence in Harambee Stars’ defense. 

Playing for Rakow Czestochowa in Poland, Ouma recently suffered a semimembranosus muscle tear, sidelining him for the remainder of the club season. 

Ouma’s absence will be felt on the left flank where his overlaps and defensive solidity have often thwarted opposing wingers.

His injury occurred during a league match against Zaglebie Lubin, and with Rakow Czestochowa confirming his unavailability for upcoming fixtures, Firat has had to look elsewhere to fill the defensive void.

The timing is unfortunate, as Ouma was in excellent form, and his defensive acumen would have been vital against the attacking threats from Ivory Coast and Burundi.

Daniel Anyembe

Daniel Anyembe, a Danish-born defender with Kenyan roots, has also been left out of the squad.

Anyembe, who captained Denmark's U23 side and has been a regular for Harambee Stars since his first call-up in March 2023, brings a blend of European tactical awareness and physicality that has bolstered Kenya’s backline. 

Anyembe’s role as a versatile defender who can play across the backline or as a defensive midfielder has provided Firat with tactical flexibility in past matches. 

His omission might be due to tactical reasons or an undisclosed injury, a factor that Firat has not clarified in his squad announcement. 

Brian Mandela

The experienced defender, currently with Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, has been a cornerstone of the Harambee Stars' defense, particularly in high-stakes matches. 

His experience in the CAF Champions League and with a top-tier African club should ostensibly secure his spot in the squad, yet Firat has overlooked him for the upcoming qualifiers.

Mandela’s understanding of African football dynamics and his ability to organize the defense are invaluable, especially against seasoned teams like Ivory Coast. 

Richard Odada

Often hailed as one of Kenya's finest midfield talents since Victor Wanyama, Odada has shown great promise at Aalborg in Denmark. 

His ability to control the midfield tempo and his defensive contributions make him a key player for the national team.

Odada’s potential permanent move to Aalborg underscores his growing influence and skill level, traits that Harambee Stars could greatly benefit from in midfield battles. 

His absence from the squad could be linked to tactical decisions or perhaps to manage his workload amid club commitments. 

However, his ability to link defense and attack would have been crucial in matches that are likely to be midfield-centric.

Alfred Scriven

A newcomer to the international scene Scriven has already made an impact with his debut goal for Bryne FK in Norway. 

His transfer from IL Hodd highlighted his potential, yet Firat’s decision to omit him could be influenced by Scriven's relative inexperience at the international level.

Despite this, his attacking flair and potential for creating unexpected opportunities would have been an asset.

Dennis Ng'ang’a

Dennis Ng'ang’a has recently returned from a long-term injury, which might explain his omission. 

Before his injury, Ng'ang’a had been performing excellently in Zambia with Zanaco. 

His ability to play the ball out from the back and his form prior to the injury suggested he could have been a key player. 

His current fitness and match readiness could be concerns that led to his exclusion.

Vincent Mahiga

Vincent Mahiga, a standout left-back from the FKF Premier League with AFC Leopards, has recently shown his worth in international tournaments. 

His performance at the Four Nations Tournament in Malawi was particularly noteworthy. 

Despite this, his exclusion might stem from tactical decisions or Firat's preference for other players in that position.

Jonah Ayunga

Jonah Ayunga's absence is another critical blow to Harambee Stars' attacking options. 

The St Mirren striker, who is poised to experience European football next season, had a challenging year due to injuries. 

After a nine-month layoff and a recent knee operation, Ayunga’s readiness for competitive play remains uncertain.

Despite these setbacks, Ayunga's potential impact on the field is immense. His physical presence and knack for finding the back of the net could have been pivotal against the defensive setups of Burundi and Ivory Coast. 

His club, St Mirren, and national team supporters alike will hope for a speedy recovery in time for the new season and future national duties.

Timothy Ouma

Lastly, Timothy Ouma, a rising star from IF Elfsborg in Sweden, is surprisingly omitted despite his recent form. 

Known for his agility and creative midfield plays, Ouma has been a revelation in Sweden, providing meaningful assists this season.

At just 19, Ouma's international experience is growing, having already earned five caps as a substitute. 

His ability to adapt to different midfield roles and his vision on the field would have added depth to Harambee Stars’ squad. 

Therefore his exclusion poses questions about the long-term strategy and immediate needs of the team.

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