NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 18 – The Harambee Stars Under-23 squad departed the country Sunday night for Khartoum, Sudan with focus sharply inclined towards earning a place in the Under-23 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be held in Egypt later this year.
The Junior Stars under the tutelage of Mathare United tactician Francis Kimanzi are looking to emulate the seniors when they take on hosts Sudan in the first leg of the second qualification match in Khartoum on Wednesday night.
“It is another challenge and we expect a good result because last time we tried and got some good results against Mauritius. This time we are lucky because we have almost the same group that did the job in the first game and that gives us a slight advantage,” Kimanzi said as the team left on Sunday.
He added; “We expect a tough game but we are looking forward for positive results.”
Kimanzi’s charges will look on for a positive result in the first leg before welcoming the Sudanese to the return fixture in Nairobi next Tuesday with the winner of this tie facing either Nigeria or Libya after which the winner earns a place in Egypt.
Consequently, taking part in the U23 AFCON will be used as a qualification tournament for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
“We go to Sudan with huge motivation and we hope we can sustain it to the game and earn a positive result. We are focused and we have a set of players who have been active competitively in the league and that gives us an edge,” Kimanzi further stated.
This is the second time in three years Kenya heads out to Sudan for an age-grade competition with the first having been in the Under-20 qualifiers in 2016 where Kenya drew 1-1 but the second leg was called off after a successful Sudanese protest on the documents of some Kenyan players.
In that match, Teddy Osok, now the assistant captain of the U23 team played a vital role in midfield and he hopes to have the same influence this time round and aid the team to victory.
“We have prepared very well in the few days we have been in camp and we know it will not be an easy game in Sudan. But we have to fight to get positive results,” the Wazito FC midfielder noted.
Kimanzi’s squad to Khartoum is endowed with enough experience with skipper Joseph Okumu leading the foreign legion that travels in for the tie.
Other foreign based players in the squad include winger Ovellah Ochieng and Georgia based Alwyn Tera.
The new faces in the squad include Sofapaka striker John Avire who has scored five goals so far this season and he comes in place of teammate Piston Mutamba who has been overlooked for the away trip.
Also included is Nairobi Stima midfielder Curtis Wekesa.
Travelling squad to Sudan
Timothy Odhiambo (Ulinzi Stars), Brian Bwire (Kariobangi Sharks)
Mike Kibwage (KCB), Johnstone Omurwa (Mathare United), David Owino (Mathare United), Yusuf Mainge (AFC Leopards), Joseph Okumu (Real Monarchs, USA), Boniface Onyango (Kariobangi Sharks), Moses Mudavadi (Bandari)
Teddy Osok (Wazito), Tobias Otieno (Sony Sugar), Ibrahim Shambi (Ulinzi Stars), James Mazembe (Kariobangi Sharks), Alwyn Tera (FC Saburtalo, Georgia), Peter Thiongo (Kakamega Homeboyz), Curtis Wekesa (Nairobi Stima), Sven Yidah (Kariobangi Sharks)
Boniface Mukhekhe (Mt Kenya United), Ovella Ochieng (Vasalund FC, Sweden), Sydney Lokale (Kariobangi Sharks), Jafari Owiti (AFC Leopards), John Avire (Sofapaka)
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