The Harambee Stars had one job to do when they stepped out on the field of play at the Stade 5 Juillet in Algiers on Friday 14 June 1996. It was to protect the advantage they had built 12 days earlier when they subjected Algeria, the African World Cup representatives in 1982 and 1986 to a 3-1 defeat in 1998 World Cup pre-qualifier first leg action at Nairobi’s Kasarani cauldron courtesy of goals from Vincent Kwarula, Henry Motego and Musa Otieno.
Head Coach Gardasevic Vojoslav, obviously aware of the Algerians attacking threat and not blind to the fact that they would be playing in a hostile environment sent his charges on to the field of play with highly defensive tactics. Many have made fun of Harambee’s formation on the day, some alluding to 9-0-1 and others 8-1-1…whatever the case…they did more than park the bus. It was a strange formation with only Mike Okoth up front.
The Algerians huffed, and puffed, but for the better part of 80 minutes could not put the ball in the Harambee Stars net as a result of ultra defensive tactics from the Kenyans who had to play large spells of the second half with 10 men following Francis Oduor’s 52nd minute red card.
Matthews Owino Ottamax in the Stars goal and all the men on defensive duty were kept busy all day, Ottamax thwarting myriad attacks whenever the Harambee Stars back eight ( yes…you read right) was beaten. The Algerians eventually scored when Abdelhafid Tasfaout struck the back of the net after 81 minutes of play. The Algerians needed one more goal to claim the tie on away goals aggregate but weren’t able to, not even after Allan Odhiambo’s 90th minute red card reduced the Stars to 9 men.
Tunisian referee Sahli Ferid would soon blow his whistle for full time, the Stars claiming the tie 3-2 on aggregate to earn a spot in the 1998 World Cup African qualifying group 1 where they were pooled alongside 1994 representatives and soon to be crowned Olympic champions Nigeria,Guinea and Burkina Faso.
How they lined up in Algiers 1.Mathews Ottamax, 15. Vincent Kwarula,2. Paul Ochieng, 3. Francis Oduor, 4. Sammy Omollo, 5. Musa Okoth, 12. Mike Okoth, 10. Sammy Sholei (13. Tom Ochura -62nd min), 9. Allan Odhiambo , 7. Tom Odhiambo, 11. Henry Motego Yellow cards: 17′ Tom Odhiambo, 49′ Henry Motego Red Cards: 52′ Francis Oduor, 90′ Allan Odhiambo