Talking CECAFA Tactics; Harambee Stars glide past a disjointed but dangerous Zanzibar

As Kenya awaits a coin toss to determine which team between the hosts and Zambia top Group A- The Nakuru atmosphere provided what was to be one of Kenya’s best performances in the recent past in the CECAFA Competition. Our friend Vincent Agan was there, watched it and here he is again with a tactical analysis of what transpired at Afraha Stadium in an evening Kenyan not only confirmed Quarter Final Status, they also condemned Zanzibar to a wait for other results in the other groups to determine whether they go home or stay in the competition as a ‘best loser’. Enjoy!


Kenya took the lead early then seemed to lose control of the proceedings before brilliant second half tweaks delivered the win for the Stars.

Amrouche stuck with ten of the eleven that started against South Sudan with Musa Mohammed for Abud Omar at left-back the solitary change.

The shape was pre-dominantly 4-2-3-1 with Keli leading the attack and the AFC Leopards duo of Wanga and Wafula down the flanks. Kahata continued in his new-found number ten role just ahead of Opiyo and Akumu who sat deeper in midfield.

Direct football for Kenya

With Harambee Stars being awarded and converting a penalty within the first five minutes of the match, it is easy to conclude that the goal came before the match had developed any pattern of play.

Yet, the move preceding the penalty – Keli drifting into the channels and latching onto a long ball before running at (and past) defenders and shooting at goal – was to be a signature move for Amrouche’s boys throughout the first half.

This directness was effective because Zanzibar employed a high line without any form of coordinated pressing; and still ineffective at times because Wanga (on the left) and Wafula (on the right)didn’t have great joy against their opposing full backs and thus could not get behind them often enough.

They tried switching flanks a myriad of times in the first half perhaps in a bid to unsettle their respective full backs but it never quite came off for the Ingwe duo with Amrouche seen constantly hurling instructions to Wafula on the right from the touchline during stoppages.

After going ahead, I would have preferred a more patient style of play that tries to keep possession while creating chances by dragging the opposition defence about rather the gung-ho approach employed where the home side gave away possession time and time again.

Granted, the stars created more chances during that period but they never seemed in complete control with Zanzibar having some chances of their own most notably in the 12th minute when Ochieng saved a goal-boud free-kick; almost a carbon copy of the goal conceded against South Sudan.

Second half switches

The biggest moment of the match tactically was when, on 54 minutes, Amrouche brought on Miheso for the quiet Wafula. This looked like a like-for-like change but from the impact it had on the game, it wasn’t. Miheso went on the left with Wanga shifting o the right.

The new substitute immediately curved out a great understanding with Kahata combining to great effect to create triangles on the left — it’s worth noting that they are team mates at club level for Thika United. Wanga switching permanently to the right seemed to give him a new lease of life where he constantly got close to Keli and it wasn’t a question of if the second goal was coming anymore but when it was going to come.

And come it did. The afore-mentioned Wanga-Keli axis combined (just five minutes after Miheso came on) down the right before Keli sent Wanga through with an audacious back-heel for the Captain of the day to finish with aplomb. 2-0 to Harambee Stars!

The other change was in midfield. Opiyo moved higher up the pitch switching from sitting alongside Akumu as he did in the first half to a position alongside Kahata just behind Keli. This provided another body for the attackers to combine with leaving Akumu deeper to sweep laterally across midfield in a 4-1-4-1 formation

Instead of hopeful balls to an on-rushing Keli, the hosts now kept the ball better and maintained possession closer to the Islanders’ box exerting more pressure on the Shafy-led backline whilst conceding minimal opportunities to their opponents.

Organized Defending

Not so inspiring attacking play coupled with an off(ish) looking Wanga upfront has seen this team criticized throughout the CECAFA 2013 tourney. On a positive note though, I have been impressed with the organization off the ball.

In the defensive phase, the team seemingly moves to a 4-4-2 with Kahata and Keli forming the 2 and the wide players moving deep in line with Opiyo and Akumu to form an impermeable bank of four behind the front 2. In this set up, they’ve pressed opponents better and won back the ball earlier compared to other teams.

Man of the Match

His early shot created the chance for the penalty; He got a great assist for the Wanga goal; Took the Zanzibar backline to the cleaners with his pace and movement; And ran himself to the ground in a commendable display of work rate and hunger. Jacob Keli’s performance was not only dominant but decisive in a match where Harambee Stars had to win convincingly.


The stars got an important win to guarantee a quarter final berth for themselves. Credit goes to Amrouche for the second half switch but, with all due respect to Zanzibar, tougher tests await.


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