Striker Mike Barasa believes an early goal is the spark that Harambee Stars need to help them erase the 1-0 advantage Burundi hold when the two teams meet in the second leg of the African Nations Championships match this weekend.
Stars need to win by two clear goals to sail into the next round. Barasa, who was recalled into the side by coach James Nandwa after missing the first leg defeat, said they need to put pressure on the Burundians from the word go if they are to overturn the deficit.
"Their is no doubt we need to score an early goal as that will definitely scupper all the plans Burundi have of holding onto their first leg lead," opined the veteran AFC Leopards striker Barasa in his second stint of a largely unimpressive international career with the national soccer team.
He has been in a decent vein of goal-scoring form--netting twice in five outings in the Cecafa Senior Challenge towards the end of last year. He was also of the opinion that his experience is finally coming to the fore at the international level. The striker likened himself to wine that only gets better with age.
"My knowledge of the game has improved with experience and now I am more comfortable in my ability as I have proved that I can play at the highest level. I think I am like wine that gets better with age," he added.
The Stars squad was taken through a rigorous training session yesterday morning as Nandwa struggled to ensure the players were in tip top shape ahead of the pivotal tie on Saturday. "The intensity of training was tough on us but we are aware that we have to improve our sharpness," said Barasa.
"Most of us have not played a competitive game for almost three weeks now and we needed a grueling session to keep our fitness level high with only few days remaining before the match," added the 34-year-old Leopards front man.
Barasa will compete for the starting position against Western Stima's Wesley Kemboi who is yet to score from his three caps thus far. New Gor Mahia man Kiongera Mungai and teammate Edwin Lavatsa, Thika United's Moses Arita and Enock Agwanda will be the other players competing for a starting slot in the Stars attack.
Football Kenya Federation have confirmed Burundi will jet into the country tonight and hold their first training session at Nyayo Stadium tomorrow. The aggregate winner of the preliminary round tie will qualify for the first round of the qualifiers where Sudan lie in wait.