11 June 2012

Kenya/Namibia: Botes Warms Local Hearts

Nambia leapt to second spot in Group F when Henrico Botes headed his side to a 1-0 victory over Kenya on a bitterly cold night in Windhoek.

The battling forward's 75th-minute winner not only resurrected the Brave Warriors 2014 World Cup aspirations but more importantly it may have reignited belief in the country's senior football team.

Despite the freezing conditions, thousands of supporters thronged the Independence Stadium to back the resurgent Warriors, who put on an effective rather than spectacular performance to enhance the notion that the current crop of players can lift Namibian football from the doldrums.

Nigeria's Super Eagles lead the group on four points, followed by the Brave Warriors on three, the Flames of Malawi are third on two points and Kenya's Harambee Stars are bottom of the group with a single point.

Last week's narrow 1-0 defeat away to Nigeria, who drew 1-1 in Malawi on Saturday, gave the Warriors new belief and it showed - albeit in flashes - against Kenya.

Coach Bernard Kaanjuka said he was "over the moon" with the victory but downplayed suggestions that his side could yet upset the odds and snatch the solo ticket for the winner that will qualify for the knockout phase of the road to World Cup in Brazil.

"I am over the moon and I want to thank the players for their continued dedication and hard work that ensured we got this deserved win," Kaanjuka told reporters after the match.

"It was crucial for us to win this match to stay (in contention) in the group. Now we have given ourselves a chance," said Kaanjuka.

"There is still a very long way to go. We just have to concentrate on the next match."

Match winner Botes at 32 is the only player in the squad in his thirties, but has a spring in his step that his much younger teammates would be envious of.

Kaanjuka praised the forward for his tireless work rate.

"Botes showed his quality. He was aggressive during the whole match and he deserved to score. He did not get many chances but he worked hard for the team. The way he plays will help the younger players to learn from him," the coach noted.

Kaanjuka admitted that the performance was far from vintage but that victory vindicated his team's effort.

He said the team is creating many chances and thus ought to score more goals.

"We created a lot of chances but we failed to score. This is something that must change," he said.

Kenya found their rhythm quickest and peppered the Namibian goal with a series of long-range efforts.

However, the Warriors eventually got going and Kenyan goalkeeper Arnold Origi had to be on his best guard to keep out stinging efforts from Lazarus Kaimbi and Heinrich Isaacks, who was arguably Namibia's standout player on the night.

Kaimbi also hit the upright from an acute angle just minutes before Botes nodded in the winner.

"In the first half we struggled and were making some mistakes which we tried to correct in the second half.

"The substitutions helped to change the game. Especially Willy Stephanus came on. You could see he was causing problems for the Kenyans," said Kaanjuka.

Namibia next face Liberia in a must win 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday at the same venue.

The Warriors trail 0-1 and need to win by two clear goals in order to advance to the next qualifying stage.

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