Gabon and Kenya are set to clash in an exciting match as they begin their journey towards qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. The game will take place at the Stade de Franceville on Thursday.
Both teams find themselves in Group F, alongside Burundi, Seychelles, Gambia, and Ivory Coast, the two-time Africa Cup of Nations champions.
In their previous friendly matchup against Guinea, Gabon struggled to find their rhythm and settled for a 1-1 draw.
Stuttgart striker Serhou Guirassy opened the scoring for Gabon in the 36th minute, but Aaron-Salem Boupendza’s penalty in the 62nd minute equalized the score.
This result followed Gabon’s disappointment in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, where they finished third in Group I, narrowly avoiding last place by just one point.
Gabon had a promising start in the qualifiers, winning two matches and drawing one in their first three qualifying games.
However, defeats against Sudan, Congo DR, and Mauritania in their final three games dashed their hopes of securing a second consecutive appearance at the continental tournament.
Since their victory against Sudan on March 23, Gabon has struggled, failing to win any of their last four matches across all competitions.
Despite their recent struggles, Gabon has a strong home record, being unbeaten in 10 of their last 11 competitive matches since November 2019.
Their only exception was a 2-0 defeat against Congo DR in June. With their return to home soil, Gabon will be determined to secure a victory and start their World Cup qualifiers on a positive note.
Kenya, on the other hand, has faced their own challenges. Due to suspension, they were excluded from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Kenya recently concluded their friendly matches with a 2-2 draw against Russia. Anthony Akumu and Masoud Juma Choka scored to give Kenya a halftime lead, but Ivan Oblyakov’s late goal denied them a victory.
Since the beginning of the year, Kenya has played six friendly matches, resulting in one draw, three losses, and victories over Pakistan and Qatar.
Their last competitive outing was in November 2021 when they secured a 2-1 win over Rwanda in the World Cup qualifiers.
Kenya will aim to capitalize on Gabon’s recent struggles and kickstart their quest for a historic World Cup appearance.
In their head-to-head record, Gabon holds the advantage, having won three of their last four meetings since January 1997. However, Kenya will be eager to turn the tide and claim a crucial victory.
Gabon’s new head coach Thierry Mouyouma has named a 23-man squad for the qualifying ties, which includes defender Urie-Michel Mboula, Loyce Mbaba, and Anse Ngoubi Demba, who have earned their maiden senior call-ups.
Notably, former Chelsea and Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been omitted from the squad.
Aaron-Salem Boupendza, with seven goals in 33 international caps, is expected to lead the attack, supported by Didier N’Dong and Mario Lemina in midfield.
The Kenyan national team has called up 28 players for the qualifiers, featuring stars like Michael Olunga, Anthony Akumu, and Geoffrey Ochieng.
Nabilai Kibunguchy, a newcomer to the Kenya national team, is expected to partner with Joseph Okumu in defense.