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Kenya Eager to Emulate Togo and Angola's World Cup Qualification Feat - Coach Engin Firat

Kenya aims to make history by qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, inspired by Togo and Angola's past successes. Coach Engin Firat discusses the team's progress, challenges, and determination despite missing key players. Learn more about Kenya's journey and their unbeaten record in 2024.

Shina Oludare
Shina Oludare

Last Updated: 2024-06-20

Louis Hobbs

6 minutes read

coach firat

Coach Engin Firat says Kenya are keen looking to emulate Angola and Togo by qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Despite missing eight key players, the Harambee Stars managed a 0-0 draw against reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire in their recent World Cup qualifier at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe.

Notwithstanding the result, which places them fourth in Group F with five points from four matches, the well-traveled veteran coach remains confident that his team is on track to qualify for the global football showpiece. 

The former Sivasspor and Iran senior national team handler draws inspiration from Stephen Keshi’s Hawks and Luis Oliveira Goncalves’ Palancas Negras, who achieved the unexpected as underdogs.

“Kenya has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup in its history. In all the AFCON tournaments they have participated in, they have only managed to secure two wins and have never progressed past the group stage,” Firat told SportsBoom.

“We are making every effort to rewrite history by qualifying for the World Cup. We draw inspiration from what Togo and Angola, led by Emmanuel Adebayor, achieved when they surprised everyone by qualifying for the tournament. 

“It proved that underdogs can indeed participate in the World Cup. However, am I feeling pressured to achieve this? Absolutely not!”

Angola pulled off one of the continent's greatest upsets by overtaking Nigeria in a tough qualifying group, securing their spot in the 2006 World Cup.

In that same tournament hosted by Germany, Togo shocked the football world by defeating Senegal, Zambia, and Mali to secure their first and only appearance at the tournament. 

Image Credits: Shina Oludare

Image Credits: Shina Oludare

COTE D’IVOIRE GOT LUCKY AGAINST KENYA

The reigning African champions Cote d'Ivoire, following their 1-0 victory against Gabon, travelled to Lilongwe, where they were held to a goalless draw by a depleted Harambee Stars team.

Coach Firat believes the Elephants were fortunate, suggesting that the outcome could have been different under different circumstances.

He added: “We drew against Cote d'Ivoire despite facing significant challenges. We were missing eight key players for various reasons, while they had their full squad. 

“Playing away from home also put us at a considerable disadvantage. Just imagine if we had played in Nairobi in front of our 40,000 passionate fans with our full squad. 

“We might have secured a win. The journey isn't over yet—we've only played four matches and have six more to go. The race for first and second place is still wide open, and we'll give it our all until the end.”

KENYA AIM TO MAINTAIN UNBEATEN RECORD

The Harambee Stars remain undefeated in 2024 with two wins and two draws, extending their unbeaten streak to five matches across all competitions since their 5-0 victory over Seychelles away from home on November 20, 2023.

Coach Firat states that did not come as a surprise as it was planned out at the beginning of the year. His team’s last defeat was a 2-1 defeat to Gabon in a World Cup qualifier played inside Venue Stade de Franceville on November 16, 2023.

“When I took over as coach, the reality was that we didn't have superstars playing in top European leagues. It was about building a cohesive team and establishing the right philosophy,” he continued.

“In our recent match, despite missing many key players, the squad understood that playing together as a team could solve our challenges, even against opponents with individual talents.

“With that said, our goal at the start of 2024 was to remain undefeated throughout this year, and we are still on track to achieve that. I anticipate this exceptional team to set numerous records in Kenyan football history, which is why we consistently give our utmost effort.”

Kenya presses on in their World Cup qualification campaign as they travel to Gambia in March 2025. Johnny McKinstry's Scorpions have lost three out of four matches played to date.

Shina Oludare
Shina OludareSports Writer

Shina Oludare is a notable Nigerian sports journalist and writer recognized for his extensive coverage of African sports. He has made significant contributions to the field through his work with reputable media outlets such as Goal.com and Soccernet. Known for his insightful analysis and comprehensive reporting, Oludare covers a wide range of topics within African football, including domestic leagues, national teams, and emerging talents. His work includes detailed player profiles, match previews and reviews, and transfer news, providing valuable insights into the intricacies of the sport on the continent.