David Ouma hides his cards

Harambee Starlets coach David Ouma is expected to name his 18-member squad on Friday that will be fielded against Ghana in their opening Africa Women Cup of Nations match in Limbe on Sunday.

Ouma carried 21 players to Cameroon, but is, as per his tradition, unlikely to reveal the starting XI until minutes to the game.

Speaking to Daily Nation Sport on phone from Limbe where the team has been camping for the last 13 days, Ouma said: “I have the squad, but I feel it wouldn’t be prudent to release it today. Preparations here have been going very well and I think I have a good squad ready to be unleashed.

“The players have acclimatised well because we have been conducting training both in the morning and sometimes at night. Fitness levels are at optimum levels at the moment and we are just planning to start the tournament with confidence and hope to achieve our ambition of reaching the semi-finals stage,” he said.

Sure appearances expected in Ouma’s squad include talented winger and vice-captain Mary Kinuthia who has scored consistently for Starlets throughout the preparation journey, goalkeeper Vivian Akinyi and the ever improving 18-year old forward Corazone Aquino who was called up as an emergency replacement for lead striker Neddy Atieno.

Being the underdogs of the tournament, Ouma will no doubt need to employ a cautious strategy for the Starlets if he is to compete favourably against the likes of Ghana, South Africa and hosts Cameroon, all perennial participants in the competition.

In this light, he is expected to present a squad heavy on defense especially for the opening match against Ghana, and this is an area where captain Ann “Auntie” Aluoch’s marshalled mean defending will be required.

The diminutive but powerful Spedag centre half is a sure starter in Ouma’s lineup, and the trio of Dorcas Shikobe, Irene Ogutu and Wendy Achieng are likely to play part in that crucial department.

Meanwhile, Starlets group opponents in the competition have all arrived in Limbe. Black Queens of Ghana, Super Falcons of Nigeria and Mali joined the Kenyan team at the Cameroonian coastal city on Thursday.

After facing Ghana in their maiden Afcon campaign at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium, Starlets will next face Mali three days later before finishing their group stage games on November 26 against defending champions and tournament favourites Nigeria.

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