5:00 AM UTC
Game Details
5:00 AM UTC
Game Details

Kenya don't need Victor Wanyama to beat Ghana

When Kenya's head coach Sebastian Migne named his final 24-man squad to face Ghana on Wednesday morning, team captain Victor Wanyama was missing, and the Harambee Stars will head into Saturday's Africa Cup of Nations qualifier without him.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has just returned to full training for his club, even making the bench in their last match before the international break after recovering from a knee injury.

However, the powerhouse is yet to feature this season as the injury problems that caused him to miss four months of the last campaign continue to afflict him.

"He is injured, as you know, and has some difficulty with his knee," Migne told journalists. "We cannot take a risk because of his future career.

"It's a huge problem because he is the captain and one of the best players in the team."

When fit, Wanyama's name is surely the first on the team sheet, and his presence will be sorely missed for the Stars.

However, even without him, Migne ought to be quietly confident that Kenya possess enough depth in midfield - and elsewhere - to trouble the four-time African champions, who have a few problems of their own.

Zambia-based Anthony Akumu and Johanna Omolo, who plays for Belgian top-flight side Cercle Brugge, will be the players Migne will likely turn to to fill the void left by the captain.

Capped 18 times, Omolo can effectively fill Wanyama's shoes.

The 28-year old was ever-present during his former club's Royal Antwerp and Brugge's promotion to the Belgian top flight, and offers tenacity and mobility.

Akumu, a regular starter for Zambian reigning champions Zesco United, was a key cog in last season's league title triumph, and will bring presence and aggression in the midfield.

The duo will have their work cut out in competing against Thomas Partey and Kwadwo Asamoah, but Kenya will be aware that the game won't just be lost in the centre of the midfield.

Beyond the central areas, Kenya should also feel confident that their attacking options - Michael Olunga, Francis Kahata and Jesse Were - can help them get over the line at the Kasarani Stadium.

Olunga is expected to be Kenya's main man up front.

The towering left-footed Kashiwa Reysol striker scored the consolation goal in the defeat by Sierra Leone, has a strong goalscoring record at international level and also - memorably - netted a La Liga hat-trick for Girona last term.

Were is another centre forward who has quietly gone about his business in the Zambian Premier League with Zesco United.

He's capable of producing match-winning performances, as in Zesco's last match of the 2016/2017 season where his brace won the Zambian heavyweights the title.

The duo's physicality and speed can unsettle Ghana's defence, while the Stars boast enough creativity - such as Kahata - to supply them.

The 27-year-old's dead-ball skills and creativity will be pivotal, particularly with opportunities likely to be few and far between against the Black Stars.

It will also be down to Migne to adopt an effective approach that can maximise the team's strengths while stymying Ghana's.

The Black Stars have had difficulties in putting away lowly-ranked teams, who can either trouble them with counter attacks or bed in and offer a resolute defensive structure to limit the Ghanaians' space.

For instance, they failed to break down a stubborn Uganda side during the World Cup qualifying campaign, and had to leave it late away in Rwanda during the qualifying campaign for the 2017 AFCON.

On a different day, had Wakaso Mubarak's late free kick not gone in, the Amavubi could have picked up a famous draw, and Kenya should be aiming for something similar.

Ghana aren't even as strong today as they were back then.

The nation's football is currently on hold amidst an ongoing bribery scandal, while Kwesi Appiah has opted to overlook a number of star players from his squad - Asamoah Gyan and the Ayew brothers will all be absent this weekend.

The West Africans are currently looking fairly vulnerable, having won just three of their last eight, and they don't have the aura and fear factor that they once did.

Kenya, who have been written off without Wanyama, will be motivated to bounce back from the defeat by Sierra Leone and become the giant killers of the weekend.

In the past, they've beaten bigger sides in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Guinea, and even without their key man, the stars might align for them to pick up another big result here.

Certainly, the Harambee Stars will be desperate to prove they're not just a one-man team against the troubled Ghanaians.


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