Six lessons learned from Harambee Stars’ historic win over Qatar

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FOOTBALL: Six lessons learned from Harambee Stars’ historic win over Qatar

Imran Otieno 07:00 - 08.09.2023

There were plenty of positives to pick from the win over Qatar following a disappointing outing at the Four Nations Tournament.

Kenya finally broke its 29 year duck to secure victory against a Middle Eastern country and needed stoppage time to seal a hard fought 2-1 win over Qatar.

Ever since facing Oman back in February 1994, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Iran, Kenya has fallen short on all occasions, failing to register a win.

There were plenty of positives to pick from the win over Qatar following a disappointing outing at the Four Nations Tournament. Here are six lessons learned from the win over Qatar.

Anyembe remedy for problematic right back slot

On his first start for Harambee Stars, Daniel Anyembe oozed class as he was solid at the back managing to contain Hasan Al Haydos who had a quiet game despite netting a penalty for Qatar.

Historically Kenya has struggled to produce a right back of Anyembe’s ilk but certainly look to have put an end to the days of Joakins Atudo turning out on the position as he did against Ghana back in 2018.

The Danish born right sided full back also looked at home marauding forward and contributed to the attack and what is even more impressive is his age (25) which means if he continues with the same energy barring injury he can offer service to the country for at least the next six years.

Okumu’s trajectory is a gem worth emulating

Still finding his feet at his new French Ligue 1 side Stade de Reims, Okumu not only contributed with a goal from a well timed glancing header but was also sturdy at the back.

One can quickly forget that the lanky center back took a one-year sabbatical from the game back in 2017 after a failed stint at South African outfit Free State Stars.

Instead of sulking, Okumu worked from the ground up, starting from the fourth division in the USA before securing a move to France via Sweden and Belgium. His inspiring journey should serve as motivation for Kenyan footballers.

His excellent partnership with Johnstone Omurwa erected a wall ahead of Bryne Omondi who looked like a bystander for a majority of the game.

A barrage of aerial threat

Harambee Stars is currently blessed with a crop of players who pack a massive amount of height with Joseph Okumu, Michael Olunga, Richard Odada, Anthony Akumu, Johnstone Omurwa and Masud Juma well above 6 feet.

Kenya were a threat especially from corners as Qatar resorted to pushing and shoving to try and deal with the aerial threat as the referee was forced to stop play numerous times due to this.

If we can perfect our set pieces, Kenya can profit from a number of goals from set pieces which can be a double edged sword as he can also be hard to score against from set pieces.

Omurwa has finally come of age

Since coming to the scene with Wazito FC, Omurwa always looked destined for the upper echelons of football with his ball playing abilities and the perfect physique of a center back.

He has however flickered without really inginiting and in some occasions, discipline has cost him, reference the game against Egypt where he got needlessly set off for elbowing an opponent.

The defender who now plies his trade in the Portuguese top flight with Estrella looks to have come of age as he won 100% of his ground duels and had a passing accuracy of 92%, losing possession only four times.

His cool head was exemplified when tempers flared after the full time whistle when Akram Afif and Joseph Okumu had an altercation and just like in the game Omurwa was there to protect his center back partner Okumu, shouting "calma" "calma".

Crossing an issue

With the lack of traditional wingers from the starting line up, Harambee Stars failed to harness Olunga’s main attribute of latching on to aerial balls like he did in the winning goal.

Numerous times, Olunga was disappointed with the service he got especially from Masud Juma and Elvis Rupia who often chose to shoot instead of floating in a cross.

Rupia’s replacement, Ayub Timbe could have easily finished the game with a goal or assist if he was much sharper with his crossing or making the quick decision to shoot.

Discipline and set piece frailties

In each of the last four games that Kenya have conceded all the goals have come from set pieces from the most recent embarrassing defeat to Mauritius to all the goals let in from Iran, Rwanda and now Qatar.

If we are to give ourselves a chance of contending for a place in the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the qualifiers just around the corner, we need to shore up our defending from set pieces.

Harambee Stars were playing in their first ever VAR match and in the technologically advanced era, the slightest of errors will be punished, ask Erick ‘Marcelo’ Ouma. Our discipline also needs to be at its best.