Kenya’s Harambee Stars blasted for disastrous display against Burundi

Kenya drew 1-1 with Burundi on Friday
Kenya drew 1-1 with Burundi on FridayFKF Media
Kenya’s Harambee Stars have been castigated for their disastrous display following their 1-1 draw against Burundi in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier on Friday, June 7th.

In the Group F fixture at Bingu National Stadium in Lilongwe, a determined Burundi side grabbed an equaliser with five minutes left to the clock to deny Kenya what had looked like their second win in the qualifiers.

Substitute Abdallah Sudi (24), who had come in for Simba SC of Tanzania striker Saidi Ntibazonkiza (37), took advantage of a defensive mistake by Aboud Omar (31) to place the ball past goalkeeper Patrick Matasi (36) and earn the Swallows a vital point in the matchday three contest.

While the Swallows wheeled away to celebrate with their sizeable fans in the stands, Kenya players bowed their heads down, with head coach Engin Firat (53) shaking his head in despair. Kenya had taken the lead in the 72nd minute when Duke Abuya (30), who had come in for Clifton Miheso in the 65th minute, struck with his left foot past goalkeeper Jonathan Nahimana (24).

Gor Mahia midfielder Austin Odhiambo (24), who had come in for Timothy Ouma (19), combined with Abuya, setting the Ihefu FC player with a neat pass, and he reacted by unleashing a shot which Nahimana punched. Abuya moved fast to take the rebound and sneak it past Nahimana's legs.

Kenya should have been 3-0 up by the time Abuya scored, lead striker Michael Olunga (30) missing a sitter in the 12th minute before Clifton Miheso (31), who was a late inclusion in the travelling squad, set up Richard Odada (23), whose weak effort could not trouble Nahimana. Olunga had another chance to make amends, a sweeping move initiated from the back by Rooney Onyango, landing on the towering striker’s head but his effort went inches wide.

Kenya had taken the lead in the match
Kenya had taken the lead in the matchFKF Media

Kenya must up their game

Former Harambee Stars captain Musa Otieno (50) summed up Kenya’s display as disappointing and warned unless they up their game they will not qualify for the global competition.

“It is a very disappointing result, to say the least, we need to win our home matches, and against Burundi, we ought to have played to win the game, but unfortunately Burundi came with a better game plan than ours and we have dropped vital points,” Otieno, who managed 90 caps for Kenya and scored nine goals told Flashscore.

“Burundi came with a game plan, they subdued Kenya because they had a plan, we did not have any plan, we played a very poor game, almost like how we played in the 1-0 friendly defeat against South Sudan, we had miss passes throughout and could not string passes at this level, I think we need to up our game,” added Otieno, who debuted for Kenya at the age of 19 in 1993 against Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo).

Otieno, who locally played for AFC Leopards and Tusker before moving to South Africa, where he featured for Sanlam Santos for his entire career, further took issues with Kenya players for not putting much attention to set pieces.

“We were not good enough at taking set pieces and our timing of the runs was very poor, every time we had a corner or even a set piece from outside the box during our time, we took our time to plan and execute it because we knew it was a dangerous set piece, could lead to a goal, and we must take advantage of it, but this group of players don’t take that,” offered Otieno.

On the goal conceded by Kenya, Otieno blamed the lack of communication by the defenders saying: “There was lack of communication from the defenders, not once but severally, they could have communicated before we conceded the goal.

“We have a national team that does not have clear communication. They don’t communicate and it leads to mistakes. Aboud (Omar) was slow and even as a coach to be honest you need to stamp your foot, we have seen him (Omar) commit the mistakes he did previously.”

Image from the match
Image from the matchFKF Media

Firat to blame for the draw

Former Harambee Stars striker Elijah Onsika called on Firat to take the blame for the outcome faulting the Turkish tactician for his selection for the starting XI and substitutions.

Despite heading into the game with injuries to key players such as Joseph Okumu (27) of Reims in Ligue 1, Erick Ouma (27), who plays for Ekstraklasa club Rakow Czestochowa, and striker Masoud Juma (28) of Al-Jabalain FC, Firat has come under attack on his selection for the starting XI.

The Turkish tactician handed a starting berth to Kenya U20 forward Timothy Ouma and Kenya Police defender Abud Omar. The two were making a return to the team having missed the Four-Nation tournament in Malawi.

In the absence of Ouma, Gor Mahia’s Rooney Onyango started as the right-back with Daniel Anyembe and Johnstone Omurwa covering goalkeeper Patrick Matasi in the central defensive role. Anthony Akumu, Richard Odada, Kenneth Muguna, and Miheso took the midfield role with Olunga deployed as a lone striker.

“His selection was questionable, he should have started the new players from Europe and benched Aboud (Omar), who gave away the goal,” Onsika told Flashscore.

“Firat took too much time to read the game, then made substitutions which did not help.”

Onsika, however, admitted the absence of Ouma and Ayub Timbe affected Kenya especially Olunga, who lacked support to get the balls upfront.

“We missed Ouma’s pace from the right wing and Timbe’s runs from the wings, those crosses into Burundi’s danger zone were lacking and that is why the game proved difficult for Olunga, he had no one to supply him with the ball,” he added.

Former Football Kenya Federation (FKF) President Sam Nyamweya echoed Onsika’s sentiments and further queried why Firat had benched Gor Mahia striker Benson Omalla, who is currently the top scorer in the Kenyan league with 16 goals.

“The coach in the run-up to the crucial tie said that he did not have experienced players left out to replace some of the injured players and then went ahead to bench Omalla,” Nyamweya told Flashscore.

“Any coach worth his salt cannot ignore the soon-to-be concluded Premier League top scorer Benson (Omalla). Why was he on the bench?

“Kenya has lost an opportunity to amass maximum points from the fixture because of poor fielding. The coach looks clueless, arrogant, and not conversant with the performance of Kenyan players.”

Key match stats
Key match statsFlashscore

Kenya were ordinary against Burundi

Former Gor Mahia CEO Omondi Aduda maintained that the Swallows were superior in the game and should have won.

“Burundi were technically superior during the match, there is no point of strewing passes without forward penetration into the opponent’s tuff,” Aduda told Flashscore.

“The fielding and substitutions were also wanting. How do you remove wingers and substitute them with second strikers?”

Aduda added: “Duke (Abuya) and Austin (Odhiambo) play in the same position, though between them they combined and scored Kenya’s goal, it was a wasteful substitution especially when Austin had to be removed and be replaced by Omalla. We need to differentiate between playing league matches and World Cup qualifiers. We were an ordinary team.”

Onsika concluded: “A lot needs to be done before our next game against Ivory Coast, if we don’t, I am afraid we may lose even 12-0, Firat must review the game and make sure the mistakes are rectified before we face the African champions.”

The draw left Kenya in third position of the six-group team with three points, while Ivory Coast who beat Gabon 1-0, are leading with nine points. Despite the defeat, Gabon remained second with six points, while Burundi are fourth, the same number of points as Kenya, the Gambia fifth, and Seychelles sixth.



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