Okumu tips Stars to reach finals

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By CELLESTINE OLILO
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Free State Stars defender Joseph “Crouch” Okumu believes that Harambee Stars are more than capable of winning Saturday’s Africa Cup of Nations Pool F qualifier against Sierra Leone as well as qualifying for the tournament finals scheduled for 2019 in Cameroon.

Okumu, who earned his second call-up to the national team last week, is of the opinion that based on Kenya’s persistent failure to qualify for the continental finals over the past two decades, the team has learned important lessons that will propel them to clinch a ticket to the biennial football extravaganza.

The South Africa-based player, however, warned that the football landscape had changed and become more about tactics and less about statistics.

“This means that even so called small teams can no longer be considered as underdogs simply because they lie low in the Fifa world rankings,” he said

“Everything looks like it is working for Kenya right now, so I don’t see why we can’t qualify for Afcon. Our rankings have been improving in the last one year. The coach has developed a very strong squad – one that has not lost a game in almost one year. That shows that there is potential to contend with the other big teams in Africa.”

He added: “Uganda have already proven that it can be done and as a team we believe in ourselves.

“Of course I am not underrating Sierra Leone, but they have problems of their own at the moment.

“We should capitalise on that and ensure that we start this campaign on a high note.”

The 20-year old defender joined Free State Stars in August last year from Kenyan Premier League side Chemelil Sugar, and has played eight games for the South African Premier Division club.

He has been capped once and based on his current form he is in line to extend his tally with a run out against Leone Stars away in Freetown this weekend.

Saturday’s clash against Leone Stars will be held at Saika Stevens Stadium. Football Kenya Federation have confirmed that the match will be televised live on SuperSport.

Other teams in the pool are Ghana and Ethiopia.

Harambee Stars will next face Black Stars on March 23 in Nairobi next year before taking on Ethiopia away on September 5.

They will thereafter return home to host the Walia Ibex in the reverse fixture four days later.

Kenya will then wrap up their Afcon qualifying campaign against Sierra Leone and Ghana once more in October and November respectively.

Kenya last played in the African finals in 2004 in Tunisia.

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