Kenya vs. South Sudan: Disappointment As Harambee Stars Lose in Nairobi

Kenya vs. South Sudan: Disappointment As Harambee Stars Lose in Nairobi

Martin Moses
updated at September 12, 2023 at 3:58 PM
  • South Sudan recorded a historic 1-0 victory over Kenya in an international friendly on September 12
  • The Harambee Stars were looking to follow up on their recent win over 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar
  • Midfielder Richard Odada was the Kenyan's best performer by a large margin despite the final result

Kenya's football national team, Harambee Stars were stunned by South Sudan in an international friendly match at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani on Tuesday evening.

Days after a huge win over Qatar, Harambee Stars failed to replicate a similar performance, going down to an early goal which proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Kenya, Harambee Stars, Qatar, Michael Olunga, Joseph Okumu
Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga during a past match. Photo by DeFodi Images.
Source: Getty Images

It was expected to be a walk in the park for the home side, who are ranked in position 105 by the world governing body FIFA compared to the 167th of their opponents.

The game had attracted the attention of President William Ruto, who asked Kenyans to turn up in large numbers to support the team.

It was the first time since 2021 that Harambee Stars were playing in front of their fans. The last time they did so was against Rwanda before Kenya was banned by FIFA for government interference.

Kenya vs. South Sudan match report

Kenya were on the back foot immediately after Joseph Okumu, scorer of one of the two goals in the famous win over Qatar, played a short back pass to goalkeeper, Bryne Odhiambo.

Tito Okello intercepted the pass, with the Kenya Police striker making no mistake to fire South Sudan in front inside the first two minutes.

It took a while for the home side to settle in, but they finally got into their stride, with Richard Odada having the first chance to draw Kenya level in the 13th minute. His powerful goal-bound shot inside the area was headed away for a corner kick.

South Sudan had a chance to score their second with Okello's pass after a blistering counterattack being cut off by Odhiambo in the 16th minute. However, the KCB goalkeeper made a hurried clearance, which was easily cut off and sent back towards the Kenyan goal before the offside flag went up.

Masoud Juma then dominated proceedings, though without much success. The Saudi Arabia-based striker first had a weak shot at goal in the 17th minute before prompting penalty shouts from the sizeable crowd at Kasarani Stadium.

Juma chested down a beautiful pass from skipper, Michael Olunga before skipping past Stephen Dhata. However, the South Sudan defender made a sliding challenge with the ball slightly grazing his arm inside the area. The centre referee waved away the appeals.

Muguna's ,missed chance for Kenya

Muguna then missed Kenya's best chance of the first half after Elvis 'Machapo' Rupia found Olunga just inside the penalty area. The Al Duhail striker backheeled the ball into Muguna's path but Kenya's number 10 failed to find the back of the net in a one-on-one situation, prompting a brilliant save from Majak Mawith.

The visitor's captain, Peter Manyang was booked in the 43rd minute after bringing down Olunga just outside the penalty area. A confrontation ensued over the decision, with Rashid Toha getting into the referee's book for shoving Muguna.

Brian Mandela, who was the only change from the starting XI that beat Qatar, saw his header from Muguna's set piece go agonisingly wide with the last chance of the first half.

Kenya vs. South Sudan second half

Kenya's head coach, Engin Firat made almost instant changes after the break, hooking off Elvis Rupia for Amos Nondi. He later on made a double substation bringing in Duke Abuya and England-based Clarke Oduor for Muguna and Juma, respectively.

Olunga missed a golden chance to draw Kenya level after Odada, who was mercurial the entire game, found him in a one-on-one position with South Sudan's goalkeeper in the 63rd minute. Mawith quickly closed down the former Gor Mahia striker before he could get his shot away as the chance went begging.

With 10 minutes to go, Firat cracked the whip again, hooking off Oduor, who had barely played 20 minutes. He was replaced by Kakamega Homeboyz's Moses Shummah, with Timothy Otieno also coming on for Anthony Akumu as Kenya looked for an equaliser.

Kenya had another sniff at goal when Abuya attempted to play in Shummah in the 84th minute at the near post. Shummah arrived a tad late, with the ball falling kindly into Mawith's arms.

The referee added seven minutes, with the home crowd now resigning themselves to a condemning defeat. Mandela became the second Kenyan to go into the referee's book after Nondi.

What next for Harambee Stars?

Firat's charges will now regroup ahead of the start of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers in October, where they are set to face Ivory Coast, Gabon, the Gambia, Burundi, and Seychelles.

Only one team will have an automatic spot in the tournament that will be staged in North America.

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Martin Moses
Martin Moses is a sports journalist with over five years of experience in media. He graduated from Multimedia University of Kenya (Bachelor of Journalism, 2017-2021)