Three Harambee Stars positions causing Firat sleepless nights ahead of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Three Harambee Stars positions causing Firat sleepless nights ahead of 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers

Festus Chuma 06:00 - 21.05.2024

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat faces challenges with his squad selection for crucial World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast.

Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat faces a trio of concerns as he prepares his squad for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast. 

With key positions under threat due to injuries and lack of form, Firat's selection headaches are just beginning.

In defense, the right-back position presents a significant challenge. Daniel Anyembe, the usual first-choice, is doubtful despite plans to join the squad in Malawi. 

This uncertainty has opened the door for Tobias Knost, a newcomer from SC Verl in Germany's 3. Bundesliga, to potentially start. 

At 24, Knost will be making his debut for the Harambee Stars. His integration into the team is crucial, especially with the qualifiers just weeks away. The cohesion with the rest of the squad could be his biggest hurdle yet.

Moving to the goalkeeping role, Patrick Matasi's recent form is less than reassuring. 

His errors in the last few matches for Kenya Police FC have been costly, notably mishandling a cross that led to a goal against Tusker FC.

 This lapse ended Kenya Police’s unbeaten streak across all competitions this year. With high-stakes games on the horizon, Firat’s decision to stick with Matasi could be a gamble, raising concerns about reliability between the posts.

Byrne Omondi, who recently started playing for Bandari FC in the FKF Premier League, is another option for Firat. However, his current form raises concerns about his fitness and readiness.

Midfield presents its own set of challenges as Firat likes to play with two defensive midfielders, but Richard Odada's availability is doubtful.

Odada, who was initially not included in the list released by the federation, has been included despite his uncertain status. 

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

 Antony Akumu, another option, has been clubless, adding to the midfield woes. If Odada misses the matches, Harambee Stars might struggle significantly in this crucial area.

Kenya currently sits third out of six in Group F of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, having picked up three points from the opening two matches against Gabon and Seychelles. 

Only the top team in the group, which comprises Ivory Coast, Gabon, Burundi, The Gambia, Seychelles, and Kenya, will qualify for the 48-team World Cup, set to be played across 16 cities in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.

 Four of the best runners-up from the nine groups will also get a lifeline in a playoff to determine CAF’s representative in the Inter-confederation playoffs involving six teams, which will decide the last two FIFA World Cup berths.

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