Kenya vs Ivory Coast: Harambee Stars Frustrate AFCON Champions in World Cup Qualifiers

Kenya vs Ivory Coast: Harambee Stars Frustrate AFCON Champions in World Cup Qualifiers

Martin Moses
updated at June 11, 2024 at 3:36 PM
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  • Kenya's national football team, Harambee Stars, played out to a barren draw against Ivory Coast at the Bingu National Stadium on Tuesday afternoon
  • The home side defended bravely against the African champions but had the better chances to win the 2026 World Cup qualifier match
  • Engin Firat's charges now have five points from four games after drawing against Burundi on matchday three on June 7 at the same venue

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Harambee Stars claimed a worthy point in their pursuit to qualify for the 2026 World Cup after they held African champions, Ivory Coast, to a goalless draw on June 11.

As far as oppositions go, Kenya faced the daunting prospect of coming up against the Elephants, who defied all odds to win the rescheduled AFCON 2023 on home soil earlier this year.

Michael Olunga, Kenneth Muguna, Kenya vs Ivory Coast, World Cup qualifiers
Michael Olunga and Kenneth Muguna in action for Kenya during a past game on March 28, 2023. Photo by Mohammad Karamali.
Source: Getty Images

The West Africans were yet to drop points or concede in the qualification journey to the World Cup, which will be held in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Kenya vs Ivory Coast match report

Kenya's head coach, Engin Firat, made one change from the disappointing one-all draw against Burundi. Alphonce Omija made his full debut in place of Clifton Miheso, with Firat opting to line up with wing-backs.

Ivory Coast, meanwhile, started all their big guns, with AFCON 2023 Young Player of the Tournament Simon Adingra lining up with Franck Kessie, Seko Fofana, Jeremie Boga, and Willy Boly.

Unlike against Burundi, Kenya started the game brightly, settling quickly into their stride with some assured passes.

They were rewarded with the first attacking opportunity of the game, but Kenneth Muguna failed to pick out someone with his corner kick inside the first four minutes. Timothy Ouma thought he had a decent opportunity to make a meaningful chance in the 14th minute, but the ball had just gone over the line before he brought it back into play.

The AFCON champions' first threatening chance came in the 20th minute when Kenya failed to clear first-time a well-taken corner kick. The ball was, however, booted away with a Kenya counter-attack, on the other hand, failing to bear fruit.

Harambee Stars were presented with a decent set-piece opportunity in the 29th minute when Ronney Onyango made a beautiful run forward but was fouled. Yahia Fofana saved Michael Olunga's resultant free-kick in the Ivory Coast goal. Onyango had another decent opportunity minutes later, but his cutback evaded Olunga, who had made the run early.

Olunga was later adjudged to be offside against the run of play as Ivory Coast grew into the game. Boga drew a save from Patrick Matasi with a curling free-kick right at the stroke of halftime after Richard Odada had given away a free-kick.

Ivory Coast were first off the blocks after the break, with Boga dancing his way around the Kenyan defence before setting up Kessie near the edge of the area. Omija threw himself at the shot, forcing the referee to halt play temporarily to check for a head injury.

Best chance of the game

With the game in desperate need of some injection of pace, Firat withdrew Muguna for Duke Abuya. The change almost had instant results. Timothy Ouma failed to find the back of the net from a one vs one position. The rebound from Olunga was cleared off the line as Kenya watched the greatest chance of the match waste away.

Kenya had a few nervy moments in the 84th minute when Oumar Diakite hit the crossbar. Adingra came back a few seconds later, sat down Omija, but his shot was blocked. Firat brought on Collis Shichenje for Odada in the dying minutes as Kenya saw through the result.

Focus will shift to the return of the CECAFA Cup and AFCON 2025 qualifiers. The side will next play in the World Cup qualifier matches next year when they travel to face Gabon.

Kenya drop points vs Burundi

Sports Brief also did a match report of the Kenya vs Burundi game on June 7 in Lilongwe.

Duke Abuya thought he had won the game for Kenya after he came off the bench to break the deadlock, only for Abdlaah Sudi to pounce on a defensive error five minutes from time to score the equaliser.

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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)