The Harambee Stars of Kenya failed to qualify for next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), but they did finish their qualifying campaign on a high, picking up four points from their last two matches. This strong end to the qualifiers has made fans optimistic about the team’s chances in the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Going into their final two matches in the AFCON qualifiers, Kenya were still in with a chance of making it to next year’s AFCON in Cameroon, but those hopes were dashed when the Comoros Islands registered a home draw against Togo, and the East Africans failed to beat Egypt at home.
Comoros secured qualification in place of the Harambee Stars and will compete at the Cup of Nations for the first time in their history, joining 7-time champions Egypt as the qualifiers from the group.
That continental minnows, Comoros are going to Cameroon at expense of the Harambee Stars has been called by many, a slap in the face of Kenyan football.
The tiny island nation only joined the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2003 and became a FIFA member nation two years later, in 2005.
Kenya paid the price for a poor start to their AFCON qualifying campaign that saw them pick up just three points from their first four qualifying matches. They began their campaign with a brilliant away draw in Cairo, Egypt.
The excitement, however, failed to last for long as the optimism slowly started fading away after consecutive home draws against Togo and Comoros.
That, effectively, was where Kenya left themselves too much to do to qualify. Comoros capitalised on the opportunity they had and qualified.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on the AFCON, Kenyan fans can draw encouragement from how the end of the qualifying campaign. They managed to hold giants Egypt to another 1-1 draw before cruising to a fine 2-1 victory in Togo.
The success over Togo was their first away win after 18 years! Despite the fact that Jacob “Ghost” Mulee’s side were missing some of their senior players, the young crop were impressive and the team looks in good hands.
During the international break, Kenya also won a couple of friendly games over South Sudan and Tanzania.
Kenya have clearly moved on from the disappointment of failing to qualify for the AFCON finals as the World Cup qualifiers are right around the corner. Kenya will begin their bid to reach their first ever World Cup in June.
The Harambee Stars are in Group E alongside Uganda, Mali and Rwanda. The group winners will progress to the next phase of the qualifying series, where they will face the top team from another group to decide who goes to Qatar in 2022.
Mali and Uganda are ranked above Kenya, while Rwanda are the only side below them in the FIFA rankings. Mali were dominant in the AFCON qualifiers and will be massive favourites to qualify from Group E.
The Cranes of Uganda have struggled and with head coach Johnathan McKinstry vacating his role, they are looking to build again after failure to qualify for the finals. Kenya can try to make the most of this opportunity and are more than capable of upsetting Mali and Uganda.
Kenya are unlikely to qualify, but their recent performances and results do inspire hope that they can rise above the odds and move onto the next stage.
Who knows? This could be the year! Harambee fans may want to place an early bet on betting sites in Kenya!
Mali, however, are still heavyweights nonetheless, ranked number 9 in Africa.
They may not be the favourites, but Mulee’s Kenya side will definitely give it their all to try and create history.