Harambee Stars should easily qualify for 2025 AFCON, says former Kenyan international

9th July 2024

Kenya will need to finish in the top two positions in Group J to qualify for the 2025 edition.

Harambee Stars. PHOTO| FKF
Harambee Stars. PHOTO| FKF
  • Harambee Stars have been pooled in Group J alongside Cameroon, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
  • Kenya will return to the qualifiers having missed out on the qualifiers for the 2023 edition held in Ivory Coast.
  • The qualifiers will start in September 2024 and end in November 2025.

Former Kenya international Elijah Onsika has singled out Cameroon as the team that could trouble Harambee Stars in their quest to qualify for the 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Morocco from December 21, 2025, to January 18, 2026.

The draw for the 35th edition of the biennial Africa showpiece was held on Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa with Kenya being pooled in Group J alongside the Indomitable Lions, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Kenya will return to the qualifiers having missed out on the qualifiers for the 2023 edition held in Ivory Coast.

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Having been drawn in Group C alongside Cameroon, Namibia and Burundi, Kenya were disqualified without playing a match following an indefinite ban slapped on them by the World governing body FIFA for alleged government interference.

The ban came after the then Cabinet Secretary for Sports Amina Mohamed disbanded the entire FKF office led by President Nick Mwendwa citing misappropriation of funds meant for football development and appointed an 18-member caretaker committee to oversee the sport.

It forced FIFA to crack the whip by handing Kenya a suspension, and by the time it was lifted, the group qualifiers had already concluded.

However, Kenya now has the opportunity to fight for the ticket, whose qualifiers will kick off in September 2024 and end in November 2025.

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Firat All Smiles

Onsika, who played for Harambee Stars in the late '80s and '90s, is optimistic Harambee Stars have the quality to qualify from the group but picked out the Indomitable Lions as the only threat.

Onsika further said the draw is what any other team, with ambitions to qualify, would have wanted to get and challenged Kenya to seize the opportunity and be among the teams heading to Morocco for the biggest event on African soil.

“The draw is very kind for Kenya, I think even coach Engin (Firat) should be smiling wherever he is because he got an easy draw, and with good preparations, Kenya will qualify from the group,” Onsika told SportsBoom.

“When I look at the teams (in the draw), I think only Cameroon can trouble Kenya, the rest, Kenya can easily win against them.”

Kenya’s record against Cameroon has not been the best in recent years, the last meeting between the two sides ending in a 3-1 victory in favour of the Indomitable Lions.

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During the FIFA friendly fixture at Kasarani Stadium on January 9, 2010, Kenya under coach Jacob ‘Ghost’ Mulee scored first through James Situma but Pierre Webo, Achille Emana Edzimbi and Mohammado Idrissou scored to hand Cameroon victory.

In 2019, they met in an AFCON qualifier, the first ending 1-1 in Nairobi before Cameroon secured a 2-1 victory in Yaounde.

Onsika remained adamant Kenya could still get a positive result from Cameroon if they avoid heading into the game with fear.

“Cameroon, as much as they are the favourites to top the group, they will find it difficult against Kenya, especially in Nairobi, they will not find it easy.

They have a good record against us, and they have a more experienced squad than Kenya but looking at their recent run of results, Kenya can still spring a surprise,” added Onsika.

“On paper, I think Cameroon will create a huge test for the Firat boys but it is not difficult for Kenya to get a positive result from the two fixtures (home and away), Football dynamics have changed in recent years and there is no favourite nowadays, what matters is how the boys will be prepared for the game.”

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Kenya Must Top Group

According to Onsika, Harambee Stars must fight to top the group or worse come second.

“If Kenya cannot top the group, then Cameroon should top and Kenya must come second, anything below that then Kenya will have had a disastrous campaign,” offered Onsika.

“Kenya must aim for the top spot but at worst they should aim to finish second. The group is all about Kenya and Cameroon, and if Kenya can beat Cameroon on home soil or even get a draw, they will likely make it from the pool and qualify for Morocco.”

Against the Brave Warriors, Kenya will face a side they have beaten twice and lost twice in their last four matches. The last meeting was in a similar World Cup qualifier on September 8, 2019, when defender David Owino scored in the fifth minute to hand Harambee Stars a 1-0 victory.

In the first leg played at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek, the Brave Warriors emerged 1-0 winners courtesy of a 75th-minute goal from Henrico Botes.

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The other two meetings are World Cup qualifiers played in 2008 – Namibia winning 2-1 in the first-round contest before Kenya won 1-0 in Nairobi.

Onsika believes Kenya will not have it tough to deal with the Brave Warriors.

“For Namibia, I am not underrating them but if they face a Kenya squad without injuries, they won’t get anything from the game, Kenya will beat them home and away, it is that simple,” said Onsika.

“For Zimbabwe, we have not lost against them in the last four meetings including the recent COSAFA Cup where we beat them 2-0, though it was the U23 playing, the odds are already against them when playing against Kenya and it is already an advantage to the Harambee Stars.”

Firat Must Get Kenya AFCON ticket

Onsika, who in 2002, was in charge of Kenya’s U19 national team, called on coach Firat to deliver the slot for the North African tournament saying Kenya’s chances to qualify were very high.

“From this group, coach Firat should not have any excuses (if Kenya fails to qualify), he has quality players in the country and abroad, who can do the job for him, he should carefully select a good squad without biasedness and be ready to deliver the ticket,” said Onsika.

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“Firat must put trust in local players, we saw what the U23 team did in South Africa during the COSAFA Cup, they had a good run before they were knocked out because of tournament rules, which means the quality of players is in abundance and the ball rests with Firat on how to use it.”

With Kenya set to juggle their AFCON fixtures and the 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Onsika urged Firat to try and stick with the same squad for continuity.

“We need to have consistency within the national team, we should stop these habits of having new players called up every day, you wake we have a new player in camp, we must stick with what we have, I am not against adding new faces, but it sometimes brings confusion in camp, and these can impact on the results,” concluded Onsika.

Kenya is currently in the World Cup qualifiers and have played four matches in Group F – losing 2-1 against Gabon, beating Seychelles 5-0, drawing 0-0 and 1-1 against Burundi and the African champions Ivory Coast.

Harambee Stars made their first appearance at the AFCON in 1972 and have participated in the tournament on six occasions. Their last appearance was in 2019 in Egypt, where they failed to qualify past the group stage.

Kenya, who were pooled in Group C alongside Algeria, Senegal and Tanzania, finished third with three points, their only victory coming in a 3-2 result against the Taifa Stars. They lost 2-0 against Algeria and 3-0 against the Lions of Teranga.

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