Six things learnt from Kenya's COSAFA Cup opening victory over Zambia


Six things learnt from Kenya's COSAFA Cup opening victory over Zambia

Mark Kinyanjui 12:07 - 28.06.2024

Six things we learnt from Kenya's convincing 2-0 win over Zambia in the CECAFA Cup Opener.

The Kenya National U-23 side Emerging Stars ran riot against Zambia producing a professional display that saw them emerge 2-0 winners on their return to the COSAFA Cup tournament on Thursday night.

There were several things to pick out from, especially considering that Kenya opted to take a squad of mostly players aged 22 and below, and it is fair to say that the pressure never affected them one bit, producing a display that would have made the seniors proud.

Here are six key things we picked out from their win:

3-5-2 is Kenya’s best formation

For a long time now, Harambee Stars have been looking to shift to a back three formation in order to maximise on the ball progression capabilities of many of their center backs and the talented wingbacks coming through the pipeline, including Rooney Onyango, who is captaining the side at the tournament.

It showed on Thursday night.  Ken Odhiambo’s starting lineup was quite interesting. Alphonce Omija, who shone as a wide right center back against Ivory Coast, played in a similar position, with Amos Wanjala and Sylvester Owino occupying the other defensive slots.

Geoffrey Onyango and Rooney Onyango started as wingbacks, with Chrispine Erambo and John ‘Champe’ Ochieng occupying the midfield double-pivot. Austin Odhiambo was given the free roaming role, with Benson Omala and Patrick Otieno playing upfront as split strikers.

It was a formation that proved effective in attack, with Otieno winning the penalty for the first goal and then scoring the second goal by attacking the back post and getting on the end of Benson Omala’s cut back from the right.

Of the ball, it was a 4-4-2 formation, with Otieno becoming a left winger and Austin joining Omala in attack, while Omija went to the right back role. It was a compact off-the-ball shape that forced Zambia to pass it sideways and backward, failing to create real inroads. 

It was an effective tactical display that proved value for money.

Spine dominated by Gor Mahia

The starting eleven was filled with mostly Gor Mahia players. At the back, Sylvester Owino was part of the back three. Rooney Onyango shone at right wing back. Austin Odhiambo shone in the free roaming role behind the two strikers, one of whom was Benson Omala.

You can also include Alphonce Omija and John Ochieng if you want to given they are also former Gor Mahia players, while on the bench, Alpha Onyango and Paul Ochuoga were the other players contracted to the club.

This bodes well for K’Ogalo as they prepare for next season’s CAF Champions League.

Patrick Otieno steps up

Posta Rangers forward Patrick Otieno was rightly named man-of-the-match, grabbing his chance in the process.

Otieno is very good at stretching defences with his pace, and he has very good ball retention and understands how to time his runs. He won the penalty for the first goal and then found the back of the net himself.

Given Kenyan are using this tournament to give youngsters a chance to show their true worths, Otieno has already put himself in the good books of Engin Firat, who is in South Africa, but not handling the team directly.

Byrne Omondi’s distribution is a joy to behold

Bandari goalkeeper Byrne Omondi had not played for Harambee Stars since suffering an unfortunate injury during their 2-2 friendly draw with Russia, which allowed Patrick Matasi to reclaim his spot as the number one.

Against Zambia, Omondi showed why he had become the new first choice keeper in the first place. Now fully fit since recovering and now getting minutes for Bandari, his goalkeeping was a beauty.

He was accurate with most of his passing, whether short or long, and was breaking lines from the back very nonchalantly. He was also calm throughout, organised his defenders well, and also made some crucial saves as Zambia fought to restore parity.

If he goes on as he is, he may well reclaim his spot in the side.

Austin Odhiambo brings breath of fresh air

For a long time, fans and the media had been pushing for the inclusion of Austin Odhiambo in the team in March following his brilliant displays for Gor Mahia. However, a misunderstanding with Engin Firat created a lot of drama, but that was since resolved.

On his debut against Burundi, he speeded things up and even provided the assist for the goal by Duke Abuya. Against Zambia, he showed why he is this season’s Most Valuable Player in the FKF Premier League.

Given a free roaming role, Austin was receiving the ball well between the lines and with his half turn, and then spraying passes forward. He was also executing some good killer-balls, and moved into channels where he would try and attempt crackers at goal himself.

He ran the show having been laid a good platform by Champe and Erambo, and as a result, played a hand in both goals, as although he netted the first one, he gave the pre-assist for Odhiambo’s winner, giving a pass to the onrushing Omala who then cut it back for Otieno to score.