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Starlets face Botswana confident of WAFCON qualification

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Harambee Starlets head coach beldine Odemba
Harambee Starlets head coach Beldine Odemba
  • The first leg game ended 1-1
  • The winner of the aggregate tie qualifies for WAFCON
  • Kenya needs a win or high scoring draw

National women’s football team Harambee Starlets will take on Botswana in the return leg of their Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifier in Gaborone, with a tough task of winning away from home.

The first leg in Nairobi ended in a 1-1 draw, and Starlets need to either win or earn a high scoring draw in Gaborone to qualify for the WAFCON for the second time in history.

Coach Beldine Odemba says the team is driven by belief and the desire to make history and are ready to take on their hosts for a place in Continental football.

The tactician says training together for the past five days has been crucial for her, especially noting that they had not had a joint full training session with a number of the players before the first leg last Wednesday.

She believes they are ready for the difficult task ahead, and will be in good shape to battle for a win in Gaborone.

“The girls are ready and the team is looking in good shape. We have had some number of sessions together and now we know who can blend with who better as opposed to the first leg. We have improved a lot tactically and also worked on boosting their confidence,” said the coach.

Difficult playing away 

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Harambee Starlets players during a training session

Odemba also says it will be difficult playing at home with an expectedly hostile crowd, but says the team has prepared psychologically to ensure they deal with the aspect.

“We have told them that on the pitch it is 11 vs 11 and they should shut out everything else and just focus on the pitch. I am confident that we will get a good result. We need to defend well, attack well and we will find some goals,” she added.

Starlets’ last qualification to the WAFCON was in Ghana in 2016 and they are keen to quench that thirst.

Meanwhile, captain Dorcas Shikobe says the players have psyched themselves up to go and give their best.

“Everyone is focused and ready to fight for the country. We have trained well and worked on the small mistakes we had in the first leg and I believe we can do it. We have to go there and fight for our country,” said Shikobe.

Her sentiments are shared by Czech Republic-based Marjolene Nekesa, the scorer of Kenya’s lone strike in the 1-1 home draw.

We are a better team 

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Harambee Starlets players during a training session

“From the game on Wednesday, you can tell tat they (Botswana) are a good side, bit we are a better team. It was just not our day. I am positive we will get good results there. The team is looking good and we have prepared really well since Thursday after the match,” Nekesa stated.

Starlets will hope to bury the ghosts of their performance in the first leg, which culminated in a missed last minute penalty by Violet Nanjala. The players say they have put that behind their backs and will approach the game with a different mentality, keen to give their best.

Botswana’s coach Alex Malete remained confident that the team will build on the first leg result to earn a ticket to the WAFCON.

“It was a good result for us to draw 1-1 away from home. Now we are going to Gaborone and we will do our best to make the most of the home advantage and win. It will be tough because Kenya is also not an easy opponent but we are confident,” the coach said after the first leg in Nairobi.

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