14 July 2017

Namibia/Zimbabwe: Brave Warriors Face Acid Test

Ricardo Mannetti says the Brave Warriors must not feel intimidated by Zimbabwe's Warriors when they clash at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek on Sunday.

The coach urged his chargers to put their best foot forward when they host the southern African champions in a 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan) second-round first-leg qualifier if they are to stand a chance at upsetting the odds and progressing to the final round of qualification.

"We know we are the underdogs in this match. We expect to face a very strong Zimbabwean team. That much is guaranteed. We need to put in extra effort. The only way we can overcome Zimbabwe is if the players die on the pitch on Sunday," Mannetti said when announcing his 18-member match-day squad during a packed media conference at the NFA headquarters on Thursday.

"We cannot go into that game holding back. It won't make sense to use that approach because we don't know what will happen in the second leg in Harare."

Namibia improved their chances of causing an upset with the announcement that forwards Hendrick Somaeb and Roger Katjiteo, as well as midfielders Petrus Shitembi and Absalom Iimbondi, who all played abroad last season, have been cleared to play on Sunday.

"These players boost the team immensely and complement the others as well," the under-pressure coach said.

Similarly, the visitors retained eight players from their triumphant Cosafa Cup campaign in South Africa last week, including outstanding performers Talent Chawapihwa, Ocean Mushure, Gerald Takwara and Liberty Chakoroma.

Following impressive performances in the Champions League, Caps United's duo of Ronald Chitiyo and Abbas Amidu were included in the squad, looking to extend their good run of form.

The Brave Warriors have come in for a lot of flak for their recent mediocre performances, with Mannetti's critics claiming that the 2015 Cosafa Cup-winning coach is past his sell-by date. They also accuse the 40-year-old of using the lack of competitive football in the country to mask his shortcomings.

He believes that some of the criticism is unsubstantiated and heaps unwarranted pressure on a team punching above their weight.

"The fact is, there is no football in the country, which makes it difficult for the players to play to a high level for 90 minutes. On Sunday, we will be fielding a non-league side against a team which has players who play on a regular basis at home and in the champions league," Mannetti stressed.

"People must be fair when making comparisons, and not just for the sake of debating. We have a much smaller pool of players to choose from than Zimbabwe, Zambia or South Africa, who are regional powerhouses. For instance, Zimbabwe have three strong national teams, we have one."

Despite the growing pessimism, Mannetti hopes for a positive turnout to galvanise the team seeking its first qualification for the tournament in Kenya reserved for locally-based players only.

Tickets to the match, which kicks off at 16h00, are on sale at N$30 on Computicket at Shoprite/Checkers outlets countrywide.

"I expect the stadium to be full. I know times are tough, and there has not been any football in Namibia for a long time, and that we did not do well at Cosafa. But the team needs the nation to encourage them to do better," Mannetti pleaded.

The 18 Brave Warriors are: Goalkeepers: Loydt Kazapua, Edward Maova;

Defenders - Tiberius Lombard, Charles Hambira, Ferdinand Karongee, Riaan Hanamub, Larry Horaeb, Edmund Kambanda;

Midfielders - Ronald Ketjijere (captain), Immanuel Heita, Dynamo Fredericks, Benyamin Nenkavu, Petrus Shitembi, Absalom Iimbondi;

Forwards - Itamunua Keimuine, Hendrick Somaeb, Roger Katjiteo and Muna Katupose.

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