BY STEVE AYOO
Kenya’s first choice goalkeeper Patrick Matasi has singled out the two players from who he expects the toughest challenge when he makes his Africa Cup of Nations debut later this month.
Matasi, currently Kenya’s undisputed number 1, will be the last line of defence as the Harambee Stars make their first appearance in 15 years in the expanded competition which kicks off June 21 at the Cairo International Stadium, Egypt.
Kenya couldn’t have landed much tougher opponents as they were drawn in Group C alongside title favorites Algeria and Senegal, as well as neighbors Tanzania.
Algeria, Africa champions when they hosted the 1990 edition, and Senegal, losing finalists in 2002, both come not only with a heavy reputation but stars to back that up.
Matasi has taken note.
“Against Algeria, we will come up against a Premier League winner (Riyad Mahrez). Against Senegal, we will face a Champions League winner (Sadio Mane). This is enough motivation for us to put in extra work in training,” said Matasi who, 442Media understands, could be looking to impress a new club with re-negotiations at his current club St. George’s of Ethiopia not looking promising.
Mane, who won the Champions League title with Liverpool last Saturday, will be Senegal’s main man up top as the Lions of Teranga look to capitalize on their latest golden generation.
Mahrez was a bit part player for Manchester City as they won a treble but the fleet-footed wideman is expected to show no signs of rust.
Tanzania, just like Kenya, are minnows in the group as much as they are the dark horses who have all the assets to crush the party, if not spoil it.
Pundits are in consensus that although Kenya will be aiming for the stars (after all they are one) by trying to be among the best two in their group, landing in the moon by being among the best third-placed teams is more realistic.
For that to happen, (and remaining inside the reality lane) they should have enough quality to beat Tanzania and then get at least a draw against either of the two giants. Four points and a healthy goal difference should be enough to sneak into the knockout stages.
Matasi’s comments seem to have backed that school of thought.
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