Tactical misstep? Former AFC Leopards coach questions Olunga's solo role in FIFA World Cup qualifiers


Tactical misstep? Former AFC Leopards coach questions Olunga's solo role in FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Festus Chuma 11:45 - 12.06.2024

Former AFC Leopards coach Luc Eymael criticizes Harambee Stars' tactical use of Michael Olunga as the lone striker in qualifiers.

Former AFC Leopards head coach Luc Eymael has openly criticized Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat for his tactical decisions, particularly in deploying Michael Olunga as the sole striker in crucial 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Côte d'Ivoire.

In recent matches, Firat's decision to stick with a 4-1-4-1 formation has drawn significant scrutiny, especially given the presence of capable striker Benson Omalla on the bench.

Despite Olunga's commendable performance with two goals in the qualifiers Eymael believes a shift in strategy could have enhanced Kenya's attacking prowess.

“I don’t want to criticise the coach because I don’t know exactly what happened during the training session, I don’t know the fitness of the players whom he had on the bench but for me he was playing like a 4-1-4-1 system with one striker upfront,” Eymael stated as per Flashscore.

The Belgian gaffer suggested that Firat's approach seemed overly cautious and might have cost the team valuable opportunities.

“In the 4-1-4-1 system of play, he should have had better ammunition to get more support from the second line, but it was lacking. Instead, he should have looked for a solution, especially in the second half, and tried a second striker to see if he could have chipped in to help Olunga,” he added, emphasizing the need for tactical flexibility.

The recent goalless draw against African champions Ivory Coast at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe was particularly disheartening for Kenyan fans.

The result saw Kenya fall from third to fourth in their group now trailing the group leaders by five points.

“You could say it was a mistake to start one striker, but he could have used a second striker earlier and perhaps that is my thinking that he showed too much respect for Ivory Coast," he concluded.

The strategic oversight not only cost Kenya critical points but also affected their position in a tightly contested group.

Burundi's recent victory over Seychelles, where they scored three goals, further underscored the potential benefits of a more aggressive offensive strategy.

Kenya's path to their first-ever World Cup appearance is becoming increasingly challenging.

The upcoming matches against Gambia and Gabon are now must-win situations for Firat's squad.

The pressure is mounting on Firat to adapt his tactics and ensure that his team can secure maximum points in these encounters.

Football analysts and fans alike are echoing Eymael's sentiment calling for a more dynamic approach to utilizing Kenya's attacking talents.

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