• June 18, 2024
  • Last Update June 18, 2024 2:57 PM
  • Nairobi

Harambee Stars squad for June World Cup qualifiers named

Harambee Stars squad for June World Cup qualifiers named

By Peter Ochieng

Kenya national soccer team, Harambee Stars coach Engin Firat has named a provisional squad of 25 players  for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Burundi and Ivory Coast.

The national team coach has retained most players who triumphed at the four-nation tournament in Malawi in March, with some few faces dotting the squad.

Kenya Premier League (KPL) side Police FC defender Brian Okoth is among the call-ups. Gor Mahia’s Austine Odhiambo has also earned a call-up.

According to the Football Kenya Federation (FKF), the coach has summoned Tobias Knost, who plies his trade in Germany with SV Verl and Bruce Kamau, who features for Perth Glory in Australia. Adam Wilson, who plays for Bradford City in England, has also earned a maiden national team call-up.

Meanwhile, Duke Abuya and Elvis Rupia also return to the fold after missing the team’s last assignments at the four-nation tournament in Malawi.

Here is the full provisional squad:

Goalkeepers: Patrick Matasi (Kenya Police), Byrne Odhiambo (Bandari), Boniphas Munyasa (Muranga Seal), Ian Otieno (Zesco, Zambia)

Defenders: Johnstone Omurwa (Estrela, Portugal), Alphonse Omija (Dhofar-Oman), Amos Nondi (Ararat, Armenia), Brian Okoth (Kenya Police), Abud Omar (Kenya Police), Tobias Knost (SV Verl, Germany)

Midfielders: John Ochieng (Zanaco, Zambia), Eric Johanna (UTA, Romania), Adam Wilson (Bradford City, England), Anthony Akumu (Unattached), Kenneth Muguna (Kenya Police), Kaycie Odhiambo (AFC Leopards), Chrispine Erambo (Tusker), Rooney Onyango (Gor Mahia), Ayub Timbe (Sabail, Azeberijan), Duke Abuya (IHEFU, Tanzania), Bruce Kamau (Perth Glory, Australia)

Forwards: John Avire (El Sekka El Hadid SC, Egypt), Austine Odhiambo (Gor Mahia), Benson Omala (Gor Mahia), Elvis Rupia (IHEFU, Tanzania). Captain Michael Ogada Olunga is missing from the squad.

The team starts preparations for the qualifiers on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Nairobi.

Kenya plays Burundi on June 7, 2024, before facing the reigning Africa Cup of Nations winners, Ivory Coast, on June 11, 2024.

Despite being the home team, Harambee Stars shall play both matches at the Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, Malawi as a result of the unavailability of the Nyayo National Stadium and the Kasarani Stadium, the only stadiums in Kenya provisionally approved by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to host international matches.

The venues are both under renovation ahead of the 2024 African Nations Championships (CHAN) and the 2027 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), which Kenya shall jointly co-host alongside Tanzania and Uganda.

FKF President Nick Mwendwa said it is always good to play at home, but it will not be possible for Harambee Stars this time round.

“Every team always wishes to play their home matches at home. This is something I would not have wanted, to play home matches away from home. Nonetheless, I am appealing to Kenyans to remain positive and support the team,” he added.

As things stand, Kenya 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, which will 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, that will 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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