- Up until that point, Harambee Stars fans considered the draw “fair” given that they had been pooled with neighbours Tanzania and Algeria.
When Yaya Toure picked the ball that was to determine the fourth team in Group C, many local football enthusiasts silently hoped for a manageable opponent. It was bound to be Cameroon, Tunisia, Morocco or Senegal who were all in Pot 1 alongside hosts Egypt. The other Pot 1 team, Nigeria, had already been drawn into Group B.
As the lanky figure of the former Manchester City star unwrapped the piece of paper, suspense grew to unprecedented heights in Kenya.
After an hour of entertainment and speeches at the historic Egyptian pyramids, the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations draw proper finally kicked off with former Ghanaian international Anthony Baffoe running the show in his capacity as Deputy General Secretary in-charge of Football and Development at the Confederation of African Football (Caf).
Toure, a four-time African footballer of the year and, was among African football legends invited by Caf to conduct the draw alongside Senegal’s El Hadji Diouf, Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan and Cameroon’s Rigobert Song.
The former Ivory Coast skipper held the piece paper firmly for all to see and read the name written therein: Senegal! Wait, what? Yes, it was the Lions of Teranga!
Up until that point, Harambee Stars fans considered the draw “fair” given that they had been pooled with neighbours Tanzania and Algeria. With only the top two teams in each of the six groups set to secure automatic qualification to the round of 16, Kenyans believed Sebastien Migne’s charges have a chance of making it to the first knock out round.
While the inclusion of Senegal means the West Africans start as favourites, Kenya now have to battle Algeria for second place with the minimum target being at least six points to book an automatic slot in the last 16.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane will definitely be the man to watch in Aliou Cisse’s set up that is littered with quality in every department. The England based pair of Chiekhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye will battle for territorial advantage with Kenya’s midfield duo of Dennis Odhiambo and skipper Victor Wanyama.
Upfront, Cisse will rely on the Ligue 1 trio of Ismaila Sarr, M’Baye Niang and Moussa Konate for goals and as usual Inter Milan forward Keita Balde will carry his bag of tricks and flair.
“Senegal are favourites to proceed as winners. They have an extraordinary group of players with a lot of experience in Europe. Algeria could offer competition but I see Senegal emerging first,” Diouf, a member of the 2002 dream team, offered when asked to give his prediction of who would proceed from the group.
It is no doubt that Senegal will be the team to beat in Group C but the fact that Kenya start as underdogs could work perfectly for Migne. During the qualification phase, the French man used the same strategy to upset Ghana in Nairobi and rekindle Kenya’s for qualifying for the Cup of Nations for the first time in 15 years.
In his brief stint at the national team, three things have stood out. He is a good schemer, risk taker and he likes his game plan executed to the latter. Just like Claude Le Roy, Migne has used big games to announce himself to African football as head coach after spending close to seven years under the wings of his mentor.