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Kenya handed tough Afcon qualifying group

Harambee Stars defender David ‘Calabar’ Owino says “quality preparations” will be key to the team’s chances of securing qualification to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Owino was reacting to the qualifying draw for this competition that was held by the Confederation of African Football in Cairo on Wednesday afternoon, that placed Kenya in a group that also includes  Zambia, Congo-Brazzavile and Guinea Bissau.

The winners in each of the 13 groups together with the two best second-placed nations after the completion of the home-and-away round robin qualification games will advance to the 16-nation finals in Gabon in January 2017.

“I play alongside six Zambia internationals. They are a good team. We need to prepare early enough and feature in top quality friendly games to stand a chance,” Owino, who features for Zambian league champions Zesco United told Nairobi News on phone from his Ndola base on Friday evening.

Stars are seeking to qualify for Africa’s premier football sporting showpiece for the first time in 13 years.

SHOCK LOSS

The team’s last attempt to qualify ended in a shock 1-0 aggregate loss to minnows Lesotho in the preliminary phase, a result that cost the team’s former coach Adel Amrouche his job.

Bobby Williamson’s team will play Congo in Brazzaville in June, in their opening fixture of Group E.

This will be followed by a home tie against the 2013 champions Zambia in September, before Stars travel to Bissau for a date with the Djurtus (African wild dog) in March next year.

This matches will pave way for the return leg clashes against the tiny west African nation, Congo and Zambia in June and September 2016.

“We have a squad of quality players who can do the job, but our immediate focus is on Botswana (in the U-23 Olympic qualifiers) this month,” Williamson said.

Kenya are ranked 118th in the world by Fifa, compared to Congo (52), Zambia (60) and Guinea Bissau (134).

Full draw:
Group A: Tunisia, Togo, Liberia, Djibouti
Group B: Madagascar, DRC, Angola, Central Africa Republic
Group C: Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Group D: Burkina Fasso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Group E: Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Group F: Cape Verde, Morrocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Group G: Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Group H: Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Group I: Cote d’Ivorie, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Group K: Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi
Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Group M: Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia, Mauritania.