Wednesday 10th August is the third and final FIFA reserved day for international friendly’s for the year 2011.
After playing South Africa’s Bafana Bafana during the FIFA friendly date on 9 February and missing to make use of the second friendly date in June 1 after failing to travel to Namibia at the 11th hour under bizarre circumstances, Kenya is all set for a game on Wednesday 10th against the Zebras of Botswana in a game to be played in Gaborone.
Ahead of the game, its time to look at the facts;
Kenya and Botswana have only locked horns four times before; twice in friendly games and twice towards qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations.
The first tie between the two, a friendly, was back on 30th September 1993 in Botswana which Harambee Stars comfortably won 1-3. Four days later the two teams met once again and Kenya registered a second straight win, 0-1.
For over 12 years the two teams had avoided each other till they were placed in the same group with Tunisia, Morocco and Malawi for the 2006 World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations.
On 9th October 2004, Botswana hosted Kenya and came from behind to sink the Stars 2-1. So much heat was generated from the loss that led to the replacement of the then head Coach Jacob Ghost Mulee by Twahir Muhidin almost immediately after. Botswana ended the game with ten men after Nelson Gabolwelwe got his marching orders in the 82nd minute.
Dennis Oliech scored first for Kenya in the fifth minute but the Zebras returned with a complete dominance over Kenya in the second half and it was little wonder when Tshepiso Molwantwa equalized in the 51st minute. The hosts took the lead seven minutes later from marauding danger man Diphetogo Dipsy Selolwane to turn the tables on Kenya.
During the return fixture on 26th March 2005, Harambee Stars under Mohammed Kheri needed a lone strike in the 44th minute from Oliech to win the game 1-0.
Heading to the fifth game between the two and the fourth in Botswana, Harambee Stars carries a record of three in four wins (75%) and two of three wins in Botswana (66.7%).
Ahead of the game, Botswana are in a rich vein of form in recent times. Ranked 165 in February 2000, Botswana is now ranked well above any of the ten CECAFA members. At 71, the Zebras are five positions above CECAFA’s best – Uganda and a massive 59 positions better than Kenya who are placed at a concerning 130.
While 71 looks good to Kenya, it quite bad for Botswana who were ranked a record high 53 in December 2010, 54 in January 2011, and 67 in both February and March 2011.
2012 Africa Cup of Nation
Botswana was the first Nation to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, their first ever, to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial in January 2012. The game against Kenya may as well be a tuning to the African diadem next year.
From Group K, Botswana has a game to spare in five team Group K but with 17 points from five wins and two draws, Botswana is seven points clear of second placed Tunisia and the last qualifier in September will be a mere formality.
The same can’t be said of Kenya who in Group J are not certain of a seeing the 2012 African event – unless on Television. From four rounds of games, Kenya is third with four points and behind Angola (seven points) and Uganda (10). The Botswana clash will be a shape up for the stars ahead of a clash with Guinea Bissau on September 3 in Nairobi during the fifth round of AFCON qualifiers.
Of the 18 Harambee Stars players already departed for the Botswana game, five featured in Mulee’s team in the 2-1 loss in 2005. Keeper Arnold Origi then was an understudy to Duncan Ochieng.
Titus Mulama and Dennis Oliech then played the full game while Mike Baraza and McDonald Mariga were substitutes taking up the places for Robert Mambo (79th) and Emmanuel Ake (59th) respectively.
Other than the five Kenya, has some of its biggest names for the game especially in midfield; Jamal Mohammed (Targu Mures, Romania), Victor Wanyama (Celtic, Scotland), Dennis Odhiambo (Thanda Royal Zulu, South Africa), Jerry Evan Santo (Simba SC, Tanzania), Joseph Nyaga (Sofapaka), and Kevin Ochieng (Gor Mahia).
Goal Keeper Jerim Onyango (Gor Mahia) and defenders; James Situma (KF Tirana, Albania), Eric Masika (Gor Mahia), Anthony Kimani (Mathare United), Edgar Ochieng (Sofapaka) and Pascal Ochieng (Rangers) and striker Bob Mugalia complete the team.
The Zebras will be led to the field by Coach Stanley Tshosane, the first Botswana local to manage the national team –he took over from fired Briton Colwyn Rowe in November 2009.
For Kenya, the man at the helm is Zedekiah Zico Otieno who landed the top job in January 2011 after the head Coach Jacob Ghost Mulee who was stepped down after Kenya has disastrous showing at the CECAFA senior challenge Cup in Tanzania in December 2010.
Heading to the game, Kenya carries a 2-1 win over Angola, 1-0 loss to the same side and 1-2 loss to Sudan from its most recent international games while Botswana are fresh from a 2-0 rout of Swaziland in a recent friendly that follows up on two other friendlies against SuperSport United (3-1) and Mpumalanga Black Aces (2-0).
But ahead of the tie that counts towards the next FIFA ranking to be released on August 24, 2011 who will prevail?
Will Botswana claim a second straight win over Kenya in Gaborone or will Oliech sink in a third straight goal against the Zebras that will hopefully give Kenya a much needed win?
Keep it futaa.com for the updates from the National Stadium in Gaborone.