Harambee Stars’ selection for the AFCON qualifier against Zambia has no surprises. Despite the inclusion of Oliech and Mariga, the squad is undisputedly the best Kenya has to offer at this moment. It’s probably one of the few times in international football that we fans don’t harangue the coach over the call-ups. The national team hosts Zambia in the second matchday of AFCON 2017 Qualifiers this weekend; 6th September, 2015.
Recap and Lessons from Congo
In our outing in The Congo we got a pleasant surprise in drawing away to a continental mid tier side. Bobby Williamson had found a balance between his attacking instincts and the template for away fixtures. The side oriented between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3 with Noah Wafula working particularly hard. Harambee stars defended in a middle block and kept sufficiently narrow in their half. The central midfield was positioned in front of the defense and they satisfactorily marshaled the area known as “the hole.”
The fullbacks did not overlap and there was little intentional build-up to go create chances so how did we score? The initiative being on the home team, Congo attacked and sometimes overcommitted allowing our wingers (particularly Were) to gobble up the one-on-one moments from long passes and transitions. Olunga’s ability to attack the channels only added to this opportunism.
One can be forgiven to think that the Congo draw was adapting the Gor Mahia style for our national team. It is expected for the away team to be reactive and Harambee stars borrowed K’ogalo virtues for this such as the middle press and quick transitions onto the vertical spaces. This will probably get us another draw this weekend but I’m certain Kenyans yearn for more.
Williamson will likely adopt a 4-3-3 with muscle in midfield and width in attack. The anticipation is that Kenya will hardly control the match-in terms of tempo and player orientation-so the opportunism will be to attack Zambian errors quickly with a lot of responsibility shouldered on individual ability. Kenya will have to find answer to a more organized team and marginally superior in technical aspects.
In comparison to the fullbacks featuring at Gor Mahia, our stock is pretty underwhelming. Kenya has only one supreme wingback type in Aboud Omar but he is not even in the squad. This means little should be expected in support of attack from our defenders. They will be disciplined in their zones and will offer some respite in the pressure to maintain possession. David Owino could be tasked to the wingback positions and he really is the standout defender but not too different from the collection of center-back types. Basically Kenya will feature four centre-backs with the deficiencies that it brings.
The midfield’s primary role will be to complement the defensive work. Victor Wanyama is assured of a start and whether he will do his actual job or be made to play as our quasi-regista will say a lot about our approach. Williamson will have Wanyama be accompanied by ‘Gattuso’ and Timbe. This, though, will hinder our ability to possess the ball as you expect Timbe to be crowded out and the two men-oxen (nice, Kanyang’onda) to be pressed off the ball. Plus with the Kenyan midfield being typically isolated in possession, as the defense and attack are never primed for this, expect a much labored display. In an ideal world they would have Akumu as the creative central midfielder and have ‘Gatuso’ come in to close down the game.
The attackers will be isolated. Whether we wrongly incorporate Olunga and Jese Were or go down the wings like we do. This is because the Kenyan attacking set-up is never built on combination and partnerships. The wingers are expected to have a high rate of successful dribbles and our strikers are expected to have insane turnovers with their half chances.
It is too late in the day to go for ideals so Bobby will have to get those one on one moments and spaces for his center-forward (s). The wingers will have to position really wide and the central midfielders should have the duty to bust into the spaces left by Zambian fullbacks.
The encounter is going to be one long afternoon for Kenya (hopefully not). The tactical question for the technical bench will be on how to take initiative of the game without having conditioned the team to do so. If the long passes mean we get to see Wafula and Were run at defenders maybe we might just persevere.
Predicted line-up; Origi- Owino, Ochieng, Mandela, Shakava- Wanyama, Okoth, Timbe- Were, Jese, Olunga. (4-4-2/4-3-3)
Kpltactics line-up; Origi- Odhiambo, Miheso, Owino, Mandela- Wanyama, Akumu, Timbe- Were, Wafula, Olunga. (4-3-3)
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