Football Kenya Federation President Nick Mwendwa has blamed injuries to two key defenders – Brian Mandela and Joash Onyango - for Harambee Stars’ early exit from the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Mandela, who turns out for Maritzburg United in South Africa, suffered a knee injury which needed surgery in France while Gor Mahia’s Onyango picked a toe injury in training.
The absence of the duo prompted Kenyan coach Sebastien Migne to shuffle his backline and was forced to partner youngster Joseph Okumu and Musa Mohammed at the heart of the defence, a move which saw the team end up conceding seven goals in the tournament.
“We were the team with the best defence going into the Afcon as we had only conceded one goal [against Ghana] in the qualifiers,” Mwendwa told Citizen TV during an interview.
“However, losing both Mandela and Onyango somehow proved costly for the side. The two defenders had formed a very good partnership and losing both of them ahead of such a crucial tournament was a big blow.
“I know I am not a coach but the injuries to the two affected his [Migne] plans. You could see the coach was now left with no options but to shuffle what was available and it played a big role as we ended up soaking in seven goals.”
Harambee Stars returned home from Egypt on Thursday, where they failed to make it to the Round of 16 after losing 2-0 to Algeria, 3-0 to Senegal and only managed a 3-2 win against Tanzania.
Harambee Stars will now shift their focus to the African Nations Championship (Chan), where their home-based players will face Tanzania in a two-legged qualifier later in July.
The first leg will be played between July 26 and July 28, with the second leg slated for August 4 in Nairobi.