Kenya’s Harambee Starlets have given the cool assurance that they are ready and well prepared for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament that begins on Saturday afternoon in Cameroon.
The Starlets will play their first match at 9pm (Kenyan time) on Sunday against Ghana in Group ‘B’ at the Limbe Omnisport Stadium.
The girls will play all their at the seaside city of Limbe in western Cameroon until Saturday next week when they wrap up their group stage matches against Mali and defending champions Nigeria.
Matches involving teams in Group ‘A’ will take place at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in the Cameroonian capital of Yaoundé which is 303 kilometres away from Limbe.
A highly-billed clash between hosts Cameroon and Egypt will kick start the Afcon competition, after which “Banyana Banyana” of South Africa and minnows Zimbabwe will come up against each other starting 8.30pm on Saturday.
Coach David Ouma has stuck to his aspirations and those imposed by Football Kenya Federation of reaching the semi-finals, and he told Daily Nation Sport that the team is excited and sufficiently prepared for the potentially bruising Afcon campaign.
“Right now we are counting hours to the tournament and everyone is very excited to be representing the country in such a big competition for the very first time.
“Of course we lack the experience but we have been working very hard on mental strength and confidence and we have promised ourselves to do everything possible to avoid a loss in the first game against Ghana.
“We have had good preparations and we want to demonstrate that we are good enough to be part of these big tournaments,” he said.
As opposed to all their opponents, this will be Starlets’ first ever appearance in the competition, and they have had near perfect preparations in their quest to make it out of the group stage alive.
Since they qualified for the African women’s showpiece in April, the Starlets have been on an impressive roll, beating teams at will and displaying remarkable improvement.
In July, they travelled to Spain for the invitational COTIF tournament in Valencia and they showed remarkable potential by beating Spanish teams Benfica (3-0) and Espanyol (3-1) before winding up in fourth position.
They returned home and engaged the Crested Cranes of Uganda in a friendly match, mauling them 4-0 in Kisumu as a sign of how seriously they want to be taken.
They then furthered their success in the inaugural edition of the Cecafa Women’s championship held in Uganda in September where they emerged runners up after suffering a painful 2-1 loss to Tanzania in the finals.
They wound up their preparations with matches against Cameroon and Egypt, beating Egypt 1-0 in Nairobi and losing to Cameroon in both legs of the friendly matches.
Cameroon v Egypt (Yaoundé, 5.30pm), South Africa v Zimbabwe (Yaoundé, 8.30pm)
Nigeria v Mali (Limbe, 6pm), Ghana v Kenya (Limbe,9pm)