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Harambee Stars: A Look at Kenya’s 2026 World Cup Chances, Next Games After Seychelles Thrashing
- Kenya's journey to qualify for the 2026 World Cup began in a bittersweet fashion
- Harambee Stars lost to Gabon before sweeping aside Seychelles most recently
- The qualifiers take a break until next year when Kenya has a date with Ivory Coast
As Kenya's national football team coach, Engin Firat boarded the flight to Franceville on November 15, he reiterated that World Cup qualifiers were a marathon - not a sprint.
The team's social media handles echoed the same message after their narrow and agonising defeat to Gabon. A last-gasp ferocious strike from Guelor Kanga sunk the Kenyans' hopes of getting what would be a vital point away from home.
Amends were quickly made, with Harambee Stars putting in a five-goal performance against the group's lowest-ranked nation, Seychelles.
While the scoreline was flattering, it is important to note that the show in Abidjan was still devoid of inspiring belief that the home team could make it to the expanded tournament in North America in 2026.
An argument could be made that save for Rooney Onyango's debut goal - Kenya's fourth of the night - the other goals were down to poor defensive shapes of the opposition or mistakes that were capitalised on.
Either way, Firat and the team won't care. You take the wins where you find them. No matter the strength of the opponent, this was a welcome three points and a healthy goal difference. But looking forward, lots of improvement will be needed to push the 'big boys' of the group.
The Michael Olunga question
Captain, Michael Olunga silenced his naysayers with a brace inside the first six minutes. But objectively, it was another under-par performance for the Al-Duhail forward, who could have had more than four goals or set up his teammates in better positions.
Benson Omalla was given longer minutes off the bench and got on the scoresheet as well, but as Sports Brief explained previously, the Gor Mahia striker needs more time to get acquainted with playing at such a level.
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With Olunga, I tend to believe that form is temporary, but class is permanent. Firat and the rest of the Kenyan faithful will be hopeful by the time Harambee Stars resumes competitive duty next year; the Liberty Academy graduate will be back in full flow.
Talking of competitive duty, Harambee Stars will return to action in June when they host Burundi and Ivory Coast. The country has no CAF-approved stadia at the moment, but belief is high that one of Nyayo or Kasarani will be ready by then, given the country is set to host the Africa Nations Championships as a prelude to the 2027 AFCON plans.
Kenya is currently third in Group F, behind Ivory Coast and Gabon. The top two teams are yet to drop points and are set to face off in June as well before the Elephants come to Nairobi.
On paper, Kenya needs to maximise its home games. Burundi, a nation ranked number 142, should be modest opposition, but it is against the two-time AFCON winners Ivory Coast that they will need to put on a show of their lives.
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It is a long stretch, but six points in June could be colossal.
After the June fixtures, the next games will be in March 2025, where Kenya will be away to Gambia before returning to hosts, Gabon. Now, a year-plus is such a long time in football. Gambia is only a few places below Kenya in the FIFA ranking, and if the game were to be held today, you get a feeling it would be one of the fine margins.
Gabon at home could be an interesting spectacle after the resilience Kenya showed in Franceville without most of Firat's preferred backline.
It is a marathon, not a sprint. Now, we wait,
Kenya's remaining 2026 World Cup qualifiers fixtures
June 2024: Kenya vs Burundi
June 2024: Kenya vs Côte d'Ivoire
March 2025: Gambia vs Kenya
March 2025: Kenya vs Gabon
Sep 2025: Kenya vs Gambia
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Sep 2025: Kenya vs Seychelles
Oct 2025: Burundi vs Kenya
Oct 2025: Cote d’Ivoire vs Kenya