Harambee stars Captain Michael Olunga during the unveiling of a new national team Harambee Stars’ partner, Mozzart Bet and team training for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers return match against Mali at the Nyayo National stadium. Oct 9, 2021. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Harambee Stars captain Michael Olunga is optimistic ahead Group ‘E’ qualifying against leaders Mali on Sunday despite facing an uphill task in qualifying for the Fifa 2022 World Cup after losing 5-0 to the West Africans on Thursday.

It was Kenya’s biggest loss in the last decade with their closest biggest loss in the last 50 football matches coming in a 4-1 defeat to Eretria in CECAFA Championship match. The last time Kenya lost with such a big margin was 16 years ago, when Morocco won 5-1 during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers.

Defeat to Mali leaves Kenya’s dreams of reaching next stage of the qualifiers – play-offs involving all group winners – hanging by a thread.

However, Stars captain Olunga who was kept silent all game during the Mali first leg match believes all is not over yet for them.

“It will be a do or die game for us because we have to win to remain in contention of qualifying for the World Cup. I believe we still have a chance of going through despite the heavy defeat in Morocco. We can’t just give up, we have to head into the math stronger and fight till the end,” said the Qatar based striker.

“We know what we have to do. The first leg did not go how we planned despite the good preparations we had. It was not our day. It was a bad day in office.”

“We learnt from our mistakes and we are looking forward to rectify them and playing better when we host Mali today in the return leg.”

Olunga, who has scored seven goals in two matches for his club Al Duhail playing in the Qatar Star League said they trust new coach Engin Firat despite all the social media fuss.

“Firat is a wise coach. He is new, nothing much. It is too early to judge a coach with only one match played and I believe we should give him time,” said the captain.

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