Harambee Stars coach Sebastien Migne has termed the injury sustained by Brian Mandela as a huge blow to the team in the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Championships in Egypt this month.
“Mandela was so promising in training and is a team leader, but it’s unfortunate that he is now not in my plans following the injury.
Obviously these things (happen) in intensive training but having said that, it will give a chance to other fullbacks to show what they can offer in the tournament.
Migne hinted that following the injury of the Maritzburg United man, he cannot afford to field equally dependable Musa Mohammed in the friendly against Democratic Republic of Congo tomorrow for fear of him joining the bay of those injured.
“My main priority is to avoid more injuries as it will be counter productive in the team’s chances and especially the potentially tough opening match against Algeria,” he said.
He said the absence of Mandela now throws open the battle for defensive duties between attack-oriented- Johanna Omollo (Belgium-based), Joseph Ouma (USA-based), Philemon Otieno (Gor Mahia), David Owino (Zesco, Zambia) and Musa Mohammed (Nkana, Zambia).
The tactician also revealed that he will largely use the DR Congo match to assess each and every player to ascertain who is fit to be in the squad that will face Algeria in the AFCON opening match on June 23.
“I want to look keenly at players like Okumu (Joseph) and Onyango (Joash) and others but at this point I must say I have been impressed by the input of those who are training as they have the willingness to learn,” Migne said.
He added: “Somebody like Olunga (Michael) did not have enough playing time when we faced Madagascar but when such player shows hunger in traing, you must be impressed as a coach.” Migne dropped Anthony Akumu, Christphere Mbamba and Cliffton Miheso from the championships but does hope that the players who he will field will give a good account of themselves.
“AFCON is not any other tournament and players need to be focused in fighting for their country. I want all of them to prove that they deserved a place in the team,” said Migne while stressing the importance of players maintaining tempo in matches.
He added: “Against Madagascar , for instance, there was fluidity in the early moments before the team crumbled as the match progressed. The team only came to find its rhythm in the second half which resulted into the slim win.”