IN YAOUNDE, CAMEROON
It will be a clash of champions as Cameroon take on Kenya on Tuesday in a match that will have a heavy bearing on who gets the ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The hosts, who are the African champions, lead the standings with six points from identical 3-0 wins over Nigeria and Botswana. Kenya, the African Games champions, are second in the group also on six points, having beaten Egypt 3-1 and sailed over Botswana 3-0.
Cameroon defeated Kenya 3-2 to win the Africa Cup of Nations title in Cair last July, while Kenya avenged that loss with a 3-1 victory in Rabat, Morocco to bag gold at the African Games.
The last time these two teams met was at the FIVB World Cup in Japan with Kenya winning 3-1 to finish 11th, one place ahead of Cameroon.
Kenya coach Paul Bitok has never lost to Cameroon since taking over last August and he will be looking to maintain his 100 percent record when they renew rivalry at the Palais polyvalent des sports (Paposy) Arena at 9pm EAT.
The permutations for Bitok are very easy. A win of any kind will see them qualify given that their last match on Thursday is against lowly Nigeria.
“We know each other, every team has a video of all the matches we have played in the recent past so I believe everybody will come with a different strategy. Our aim is to get the ticket. It’s not going to be easy but how we start will also play a very big role,” said Bitok.
Cameroon coach Jean Rene Akono will be without the services of influential outside hitter Laetitia Moma Bassoko and libero Raissa Nasser, but downplayed their absence.
“We have won and lost to Kenya before even with Moma and Raissa on court. Volleyball is a team sport so we can’t say the absence of a few individuals will affect us. Even Kenya have key players (Triza Atuka and Janet Wanja) missing so we can’t use that as an excuse,” said Akono.
“Our main concern is finishing the game. We have been playing very well against Kenya before, but when we get to 22 we just can’t finish the game. We hope for better tomorrow,” he added.
In the absence of Moma, Cameroon captain Christelle Nana will be expected to provide leadership on court.
“We know it’s a difficult game but we are going out there to enjoy ourselves and concentrate fully on the task ahead,” said Nana.
Egypt will face Nigeria in the other match of the day set to serve off at 6pm EAT.