Je Simba Ni Mgonjwa?
A harsh lesson at the hands of the Germans, a lucky win in Kampala and a scrappy draw in Nairobi, describe the Simbas start to the 2017 international calendar.
At a similar stage last year, the Simbas had blown Uganda apart with a 48-10 win in Kampala, before impressively sneaking in a one point win away to Brazil, the year before, the Simbas had beaten Portugal and Tunisia, Kenya ‘A’ had edged out the Uganda cranes and were en-route to the Elgon Cup title.
This is largely unfamiliar territory for us, how did we get here? Has the growth curve we have witnessed in the past 4 years finally hit a plateau? Are our opponents getting smarter given that we haven’t changed our style of play in that period, Je huyu Simba amekua mgonjwa?
It was always going to be a tough season, I feel we took a risk in changing so much in so little time. With the likes of Mike Okombe, Nick Barasa, Tony Owuor, Lawi Buyachi, Fabian Olando (from the top of my head) unavailable due to injury, we went on to drop another 5 or 6 players due to a debatable, ‘lack of form.’
Which meant that we would be operating with up to 12 new faces, a year before the World cup qualifiers. A risk that I have always said might play in one of two ways, widen our player base ahead of the qualifiers while still getting the results, or water down all the achievements in the past 4 years and put our place in the qualifiers at risk. I feel we are closer to the latter happening than the former.
Watching Kenya play against Germany then Uganda both home and away, you could see that the Simbas lacked that killer instinct that we had been accustomed to over the years. We used to be a very efficient side, while our set plays might have been shaky, we rarely let a scoring chance pass.
This current side seems to have gone the other way, good on the set piece, apart from that German game, the Simbas dominated Uganda at the set piece both home and away. We seem to have lost that cutting edge, in Kampala, Adimo saved our blushes, on Saturday the Ugandans came prepared for him and the pairing of Pius Ogena and Michael Wokorach put in a great job defensively, we were fortunate to get that draw.
My greatest concern has however been on defense where Germany and Uganda exposed us time and again. We also seem to fade away in the closing stages of the game, a period we usually seemed to thrive in. Refer to Spain, Hong Kong and Portugal. Is it a lack of experience or fitness?
We are now in a tricky situation in terms of the Africa Gold cup, which we need to remain in, so as to stand a chance to make it to the 2019 World Cup. We still have Senegal and Tunisia at home before facing Zimbabwe and Namibia away.
Do we have what it takes to get at least 2 wins from these fixtures? Based on current form, I think we’ll struggle to, especially considering that Tunisia will have their French contingent available for selection. A lot of work needs to be done between now and our next fixture, against Senegal on the 8th of July.
Does that work involve calling back some of the dropped players? I am of the idea that the experienced faces will probably not do us much as we think they would to help us out. Plus in a situation where we are looking to widen the player base, we”d be going back on the one thing we are doing well in this far.
The current group has already gone through a lot (the criticisms alone must be a tonne load) , picked up lessons on the way and should be left to finish what they started. If need be that the lack of experience is a real concern, we shouldn’t make any ‘knee jerk’ reactions.
We need to sharpen our skill in both defence and attack before we take on the Tunisians, our World cup chances are on the line, if that doesn’t galvanise this side to play their absolute best (they are currently far from it), I don’t know what will.