Olunga on the hat-trick as Harambee Stars win Four Nations tourney

Wednesday March 27 2024
Michael Olunga

Kenya's captain and forward Michael Olunga celebrates his goal against Seychelles during their 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier at the Stade Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on November 20, 2023. PHOTO | POOL


Kenya’s Harambee Stars have been crowned champions of the Four Nations tournament held in Lilongwe, Malawi after they beat the Warriors of Zimbabwe 3-1 in the final held at Bingu National Stadium on Tuesday.

Striker Michael Olunga celebrated his 30th birthday in style by netting a hat-trick in the match where both teams were reduced to 10 men.

The Chipolopolo of Zambia finished third after beating the Flames of Malawi 2-1 in the third-place play-off, which was also played on Tuesday at the same venue.

Kenya has now defeated Zimbabwe five times in 11 meetings.

Read: Uganda stun Kenya to win Cecafa Under-18 tourney

The two teams have drawn five times while Zimbabwe has won just once – 2-0 in October 1985.


Thanks to the big win over Zimbabwe, Kenya scored a whopping 12 goals in their last three matches to extend their winning streak. 

Before Kenya hammered Malawi 4-0 in their opening match of the four-nation tournament at Bingu National Stadium on Saturday, they had thrashed Seychelles 5-0 in November last year in their Group 'F,' 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

The last time Kenya won three matches in a row was in December 2019 when they defeated Tanzania (1-0), Sudan (2-1) and Zanzibar (1-0) in Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup in Uganda.

The tournament in Lilongwe was part of Stars’ preparations for their Group 'F' qualifiers against Burundi and reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire set for June 3 and 10 respectively.

The coach Engin Firat’s side qualified for the final by whipping the Flames 4-0 on Saturday while the Warriors defeated Chipolopolo 6-5 in post-match penalties after drawing 2-2 in normal time also on Saturday.

In the final on Tuesday, Firat showed trust in the side that started against the Flames, with defender Vincent Mahiga and midfielder Chrispine Erambo again being handed starting roles.

The duo debuted for Stars against Malawi.

Read: Kenya thrashes Seychelles 5-0 in World Cup qualifiers

Zimbabwe took the lead on four minutes courtesy of defender Joseph Okumu’s own goal. 

Under pressure from two yellow shirts, just inches away from the goal-line, the Stade de Reims man slipped as he attempted to make a clearance, the ball hitting his own net. 

The first chance for Kenya to draw level arrived in the 13th minute but Ayub Masika’s effort missed the target narrowly. 

With the Warriors still the brighter side of the exchange, Firat moved to turn tables with the introduction of midfielder Kenneth Muguna for Erambo on 21 minutes.

Muguna troubled Zimbabwe’s goalkeeper Bernard Donovan with a dangerous cross in the 36th minute, the custodian timely clearing the ball with his foot. 

Olunga equalised for Kenya with a header in first-half stoppage time after oonnecting to Masika’s brilliant cross. 

Zimbabwe suffered a major blow in the opening 10 minutes of the second-half after their coach Norman Mapeza and defender Teenage Hadebe were sent off. 

Mapeza was red-carded following a commotion on the pitch, which also saw Kenya’s midfielder Richard Odada yellow-carded. Hadebe was sent off after receiving a second booking. 

Stars took the lead in the 65th minute when Olunga buried a rebound after goalkeeper Donova had punched Rooney Onyango’s shot in his path.

Zimbabwe almost equalised in the 68th minute through Tinotenda Kadewere but his effort from a counter-attack was cleared by Stars defence.

Five minutes later, Kenya were reduced to 10 men after Odada received his second booking.

Olunga sealed Kenya’s victory with a beautiful strike three minutes from time. He coolly controlled the ball outside Zimbabwe’s box before beating goalkeeper Donovan with a rising shot.