By Joel Omotto
Kenyans were keeping their fingers crossed last night, hoping for some favours for Harambee Stars to book a maiden last 16 slot in the Africa Cup of Nations.
Following Monday’s 3-0 drubbing by Senegal, matters became complicated for Harambee Stars as they needed Cameroon and Mali to beat Benin and Angola respectively, in matches that were played last night, for them to sail though as one of the four best third-placed teams.
However, with Cameroon and Benin drawing 0-0, Kenya’s fate was sealed as they were removed from the equation of best third placed teams, owing to their inferior goal difference.
Following Sunday and Monday’s final group matches, Kenya went into the match with Senegal knowing that a draw would secure their place but the heavy defeat left them solely depending on how Groups E and F played out last night.
Group F’s final matches had Benin taking on Cameroon while Guinea-Bissau faced Ghana. Ghana won their match 2-0 to finish second in the group with five points with Cameroon top with a similar tally but with a superior goal difference.
The Tunisia and Mauritania match was slated for a 10pm kick off but that was of no consequence as Kenya were already out.
The same scenario was witnessed in Group E where Mali were top with four points with Tunisia and Angola on two a piece while pointless Mauritania were already out before last night’s ties.
Kenya would have scrapped through as one of the four best third-placed teams given they have three points same as South Africa and DR Congo, joining Guinea who are already assured of their slot, having accumulated four points for third place in Group B but Benin, on three points, with their better goal difference edged them out.
Having scored three and conceded seven, Harambee Stars (with a -4 goal difference) and South Africa (-1) therefore missed out while DRC, who scored four and conceded four, plus Group E and F third- placed teams sail through.
In Monday’s match, Kenya’s goalkeeper Patrick Matasi produced countless saves including keeping out a penalty but that was still not enough as Liverpool star Sadio Mane scored twice to book a last-16 place for Senegal.
The Champions League-winning forward had a timidly-struck first half penalty saved by Matasi before making amends with a brace after a goalless opening 45 minutes.
Ismaila Sarr put Senegal ahead on 63 minutes and Mane netted on 71 and 78 minutes, his second goal coming from another penalty. Kenya were reduced to 10 men just before the second penalty was taken with Philemon Otieno sent off for a second yellow card.