People Daily

Olunga calls on team-mates to rise to the occasion in Egypt

Harambee Stars striker Michael Olunga wants the national team to give Kenyans a memorable performance at the 32nd edition of Africa Cup of Nations  (Afcon) in Egypt.

Lowly-ranked Burundi illustrated how to stop the tournament’s top dogs by holding Algeria to a one-all draw in Tuesday night’s international friendly, a result that will reaffirm Kenya’s resolve to upset the order in African football.

Kenya opens her group campaign against star-studded Algeria on June 23 hoping to exorcise a long-running Carthage curse that has haunted Harambee Stars over the years.

A positive result in the opening game will open qualifying chances for Sebastian Migne’s side.

In Tuesday’s friendly, sustained pressure from Burundi forced Algeria’s goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi to score an own goal just nine minutes after Baghdad Bounedjah scored, a plot Kenya is more than equipped to implement.

Olunga talked up Stars’ chances in Group C where he hopes Kenya will defy the odds and triumph against Algeria, Senegal and neighbours Tanzania to reach the knockout stage for the first time ever.

Talented players

“We have a chance to put Kenya on the football map and show the young talented players back at home how it is done and what stage it must be done. The players in camp are diverse and with massive potential,” Olunga told People Sport from the Marcoussis training base in the outskirts of Paris, France yesterday. 

He added: “A comfortable mixture of experience and youth who have been picked from the local league. That is a big first step and now we have the chance to place Kenya where it rightfully belongs.”

“Each of us had a dream at the very beginning. Part of the dream has been fulfilled and we are going to the Cup of Nations. But since none of us in camp has ever played in this competition, our objective is to go there and have a good performance,” said Olunga.

The Japan-based striker lauded preparations put in place for the team ahead of the tournament, saying: “This is what is needed. Preparation is key and when done correctly, it transforms football on the pitch.”

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