It will be a meeting between four-time African champions and an unpredictable opponent as Ghana and Kenya clash in the second round of qualifiers for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on today at the Moi International Sports Center in Kasarani.
Harambee Stars, who have not played in a major international tournament since Afcon 2004, will be up against the Black Stars of Ghana, who featured in the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Fifa World Cups.
Kenya, who lost 2-1 loss to Leone Stars in the first round of qualifiers played in June last year, are third in Group F without a point alongside neighbours Ethiopia.
The visitors had a perfect start, beating Ethiopia 5-0 to take an early lead. Only the top two teams are assured of qualification to the biannual continental competition set for next year in Cameroon.
This match brings back memories of that terrible afternoon 53 years ago in Nairobi where Ghana handed Kenya a 13-2 humiliation in the presence of founding president Jomo Kenyatta who had to leave before the final whistle.
It was part of Kenya’s independence celebrations, and it was the last time Kenyatta ever attended a football match until his death in 1978.
On Saturday however, a recurrence of this bit of history seems highly unlikely at least as far as the score line is concerned, as both sides will be without key players.
Kenya coach Sebastien Migne will be missing captain Victor Wanyama, Jesse Were, Paul Were, Brian Mandela and Ayub Timbe, while Appiah will lack the leadership of captain Asamoah Gyan as well as the artistry of the Ayew brothers (Andrew and Jordan), who have been out of the Ghana squad since September last year.
This means that Migne’s technical acumen, together with that of Ghana’s Kwesi Appiah, will come under sharp scrutiny during the match.
“I know it’s a huge task ahead. Ghana is one of the best five teams in Africa. They beat Ethiopia 5-0 but we will try to win and I hope fans will come out to support us,” said Migne, who will work with his own backroom staff, which has compatriot Nicholas Bourriquet and Francis Kimanzi and (assistant coaches), goalkeeping coach Guillame Coffy and Ludovic Breul who is an Osteopath.
In their quest for an eighth consecutive appearance in an Afcon final, Ghana will be led by Inter Milan utility Kwadwo Asamoah, who is the only surviving member of the golden generation of 2010 that reached the World Cup quarter finals in South Africa against all odds.
“Kenya is home, we have camped here several times and we like many things about the country including the weather, the language and also the people. We have prepared well, and even though many think I’ve left out some key players, I know we shall do well because Ghana has a lot of players. Those who are not here will be with us in the future,” Appiah said on Thursday, following the team’s arrival from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The match will be presided over by Janny Sikazwe, who will be assisted by fellow Zambians Oliver Gift Mwene and Kabwe Chansa.
The 39-year-old Sikazwe, a teacher by profession, was one of the officials at the 2018 Fifa World Cup held in Russia.
Credit: Daily Nation