Southampton and Mali’s winger Moussa Djenepo.[Courtesy]

New Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat is optimistic ahead of the 2022 World Cup qualifying double-header against Mali.

Speaking on Friday, Firat who is currently training local based players with the exception of the foreign legion led by captain Michael Olunga yet to join camp, said he trusts the players he has called up for national duty.

The 51-year-old Turkish tactician earlier this week recalled Simba SC’s defender Joash Onyango and Spain based Ismael Gonzalez to his 34-man squad which consist of a blend of youth and experience.

“I believe in young players. Youth is always the backbone of any team and am happy with the squad I have. For now, we have to wait and see which squad we will have in the end after the foreign players join in,” said Firat.

However, as fans will be waiting anxiously to see how the Turk lines up and performs in the two-legged encounter, Harambee Stars have an uphill task against Mali.

Mali head coach Mohamed Magassouba named a strong squad ahead of the first leg to be played in Morocco on October 7 before travelling to Nairobi for the return leg on October 10.

The West African nation boasts of over 10 players playing their trade in European Leagues compared to Kenya.

Southampton winger Moussa Djenepo leads the foreign legion in Magassouba’s squad. 

With two goals since his debut with the Mali national team in 2017, the pacy Djenepo will pose huge threat to Kenya’s defence.

Another Malian star is Adama Traore who scored the solitary goal that helped Mali beat Rwanda 1-0 during the opening Group E match.

Harambee Stars’ training as they prepare for the upcoming back to back 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Mali at Utalii College Sports Club on Friday, October 1, 2921. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Other key players in the team include English Premier League Brighton’s midfielder Yves Bissouma, Moussa Doumbia and El bilal Toure both of Remis (France), Massaido haidara of Lens (France) and Bosso Ibrahim of TP Mazembe.

Harambee Stars are scheduled to depart for Morocco, the host venue of the first leg, tomorrow. 

Kenya drew their two opening matches. They were held to a barren draw by Uganda in Nairobi before drawing 1-1 away to Rwanda. Mali also drew 0-0 with Rwanda in reverse match in Kigali.

Mali lead Group E with four points followed by Kenya with two pointssame as Uganda, while Rwanda are bottom with one point.

 

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