Talking CECAFA 2013 Tactics: Harambee Stars Fail To Break Down A Defensive Ethiopia

The 2013 CECAFA Challenge Cup is here- not so much to write home as we’re just in the first week of the tourney, but so much to write concerning tactics especially for the home team, the Harambee Stars. Having in mind the tremendous pressure Harambee Stars got to deal with now especially after that beautiful run last year at this tourney in Uganda, Guest blogger Vincent Agan seeks to demystify each move, each player’s position and influence as he dissects Kenya’s 0-0 draw with the Walia Antelopes of Ethiopia- Enjoy!


Harambee Stars began their 2013 CECAFA tourney with a 0-0 draw against Ethiopia in an uneventful encounter at the Nyayo National Stadium. That the biggest news of the match was Kenya head coach, Adel Amrouche missing on the touch line says it all for the match’s entertainment value.


Amrouche (or is it Nandwa?), picked a strange looking back four: Omar at left back; Owino (a right-back?) and Atudo as the central two; and Mohammed (a left-back) on the right.

In midfield, he went for Akumu and Opiyo as the double pivot with captain of the day Kahata slightly ahead of them. Gateri and Lavatsa played either side of Wanga in attack.

Ethiopian coach Sewnet Bishaw disappointingly chose a much changed side to the one that battled Nigeria in the world cup qualifiers with experienced striker Yonatan Kebede left on the bench and only making a late cameo in the 81st minute.

Salhadin Bargicho partnered Thok James in central defence with Captain Asfan Fasika alongside the impressive Mesfin Mulualem in the middle of the pack. Foad Abas lead the line.

Good start

The hosts started encouragingly well with purposeful movement from the front four of Gateri, Wanga, Lavatsa and Kahata welding  into some delightful wing play to create good openings in the first 20 minutes of the match.

First, in the 3rd minute when Lavatsa won a tussle with Tegne, went on a good run to cross low only for Gateri (looked to me like he was fouled), to miss out on a simple tap in; then in the 16th minute when the lively Gateri crossed beautifully for an unmarked Wanga to head over from 8 yards.

Wanga went on to have a quiet game with two further attempts at goal coming on 54 minutes and 86 minutes: both efforts went over the bar. It was an underwhelming performance from Kenya’s number 11. Should Amrouche/ Nandwa consider Keli and Kiongera?


You can also read> Tactical Report: Nandwa Downs Williamson in the 2013 GOtv Shield Final


Sewnet Bishaw’s tactics

It was surprising just how much respect Walia gave Harambee Stars – they played deep leaving striker Abas isolated for most of the game. They weren’t great at transitions after winning the ball and only came into life in an attacking sense after the introduction of Kebede and Fantu into the last 10 minutes of the match. That their best chance of the game came in injury time when Kebede headed a cross agonizingly wide sums them up their attacking play, really.

Surely, a little more pressing from the front by Ethiopia would have troubled what was an unfamiliar backline for Kenya. This was evident in the 39th minute when Abas pressured Atudo into hitting the ball straight at a waiting Yakob Gebremichael who went on to test Duncan Ochieng from distance. Disappointingly for Ethiopia though, it only happened that once. Atudo and Owino were left to build from the back and pick out passes to Akumu and Opiyo for most of the game under minimal pressure.

The Role of Kahata

Harambee stars predominantly play with a front two in a standard 4-4-2; or with a lone forward flanked by wide men ahead of a flat three in midfield in a 4-3-3. Here though, they played in a staggered formation with Kahata playing as a traditional ten tasked with linking midfield to attack.

Instead of just hanging behind Wanga and waiting for passes with his back to goal, the Thika United star dove-tailed intelligently by coming deep in midfield to help Opiyo and Akumu keep possession and drifting wide to combine with his wide men.

He was also a goal threat with 2 attempts at goal: first, on 19 minutes after some nice combination play with Lavatsa on the right and minutes later when he drifted to the left after a corner. Although both efforts were off-target, they showed his industry on the day.

What he didn’t do well enough though, was finding Wanga often enough to create chances for the Ingwe striker. This happened only once in the game — in the 55th minute when Wanga drifted to the right channel before Kahata found him with a forward pass. The striker turned brilliantly only to shoot over.

Their failure to link-up was because of (1) Wanga’s limitations as a striker and (2) Mulualem’s tight marking and, at times, fouling of Kahata which resulted in a booking in the 37th minute for the Walia midfielder.

Opiyo and Akumu as a team

After the GOtv shield final where the duel between Opiyo (playing for AFC), and Akumu (playing for Gor), was the stand-out feature of the match, it was always going to be interesting watching them play in the same midfield.

Akumu was brilliant: he shackled Fasika nicely limiting his creative influence on the match and was a reliable out-ball for passes from Atudo and Owino in defence. It was pleasant to see him switch play using quick diagonals to the quiet Lavatsa and the energetic Gateri on the flanks.

Opiyo, on the other hand, played an energetic role pressing the Ethiopian midfielders on the ball thereby denying them time and space to play forward passes. His trademark bursts into the opposition box were nonexistent though, perhaps as part of a strategy to stay deeper and focus more on the shape.

Owino in central defence

Owino’s over-exuberant play was the most notable feature of a mostly untroubled back four. He constantly stepped into midfield to try and win possession early for his team, needlessly at times. This resulted in a yellow card in the 30thminute after a foul on Fasika, in midfield!


A combination of an underwhelming Wanga, a lack of incisive play by Kenya and defensive tactics from Ethiopia turned a potential match of the tournament (tournament hosts vs. a team that was 180 minutes away from gracing the World Cup in Brazil) into a drab affair.

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