Success-starved Kenya need a mini-miracle Saturday to stay in the race for a 2016 Rio Olympic Games football place. The East Africans host Botswana at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi having to score at least three goals to repair the damage inflicted by a 3-0 first-leg loss two weeks ago.
Bungling Kenyan officials contributed to the unexpectedly heavy defeat as a delay in arranging visas meant the squad reached the match venue less than four hours before the kick-off.
Ill-prepared Kenya faded dramatically after half-time, conceding three goals, and striker John Nairuka was red-carded, ruling him out of the return match.
But Scotland-born Kenya coach Bobby Williamson believes his team can put the Botswana fiasco behind them and book a second-round date with Zambia. "Botswana scored three goals in 45 minutes so I am confident we can do the same in 90 minutes," he told Kenyan reporters. Williamson and assistant Musa Otieno say Kenyan hopes hinge heavily on striker Michael Olunga.
The 21-year-old Nairobi student, a first-leg absentee because he was writing examinations, has impressed with champions Gor Mahia.
"I am counting on Michael to be at his best and to score goals for us like he has been doing for Gor," said Williamson. Former towering centre-back Otieno added: "We really missed Michael in Botswana.
Chances were created but we lacked someone to score goals. "It is possible to overcome the deficit because we will not be suffering from fatigue as was the case in Botswana." Kenyan football is experiencing a terrible year with the Olympic team losing 4-1 overall to Egypt in a 2015 All-Africa Games first-round qualifier.
The senior national squad watched the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea on TV after failing to make even the group phase of the qualifiers. And Gor Mahia and Sofapaka were unsuccessful at CAF club level, making early exits from the Champions League and Confederation Cup respectively.
Rwanda defend a 2-0 lead over Somalia Sunday in a second leg set for Djibouti owing to on-going insecurity in Mogadishu. The match was originally scheduled for Nairobi, but Somali officials did not seek clearance from the Kenyan government. Northern Ireland-born Rwanda coach Johnny McKinstry is optimistic ahead of the game in the tiny Horn of African state.
"Somalia defended very deep in the first leg, making it difficult for us to create chances. Now they must come at us, leaving space at the back," he said. The overall winners face Uganda.
Olympic football qualifiers are restricted to under-23 footballers with each country permitted three 'over-age' players at the tournament in Brazil.