INTENSE competition for places in the Brave Warriors final Chan squad all but ended Immanuel Heita's dream of appearing at the tournament, head coach Ricardo Mannetti told The Namibian Sport on Tuesday.
Heita, a key figure in the Warriors backs against the wall run to the 2018 African Nations Championships, is sidelined with a knee injury picked up during training in Tunis where Namibia have been preparing since 28 December.
That leaves Benyamin Nenkavu, who almost missed out on the 27-member training squad through injury himself, and late addition Itamunua Keimuine as Mannetti's alternatives for the left-wing berth.
Keimuine replaced injured qualification hero Muna Katupose last month, with Mannetti also losing out on the services of influential midfielder Wangu Gome who became ineligible for the tournament after moving abroad.
"[Immanuel] Lucky Heita looks like he will not recover in time for the tournament. He picked up a knee injury. Other than that, there are no other injury worries," Mannetti said after Tuesday morning's training session.
The 42 year-old added that competition is intense as players jostle for positions in the final 23-man squad, which will be announced before leaving for Morocco on 11 January.
Mannetti will run the rule over fringe players during Saturday's warm-up match against Rwanda on Saturday.
"The spirit is very competitive," he said.
"Internal competition is good because then it means we will be very competitive externally when we face our opponents in Morocco. Everyone wants be part of this experience."
That battling attitude gives Mannetti optimism heading into the tournament where Namibia faces Ivory Coast on 14 January and Uganda on 18 January in Marrakech before taking on Zambia on 22 January in Casablanca to conclude the group phase.
The top two teams in the group advance to the quarter-finals.
"The tactics [in a competitive environment] make it [the job] easy and we will have different approaches. Some players are more suitable than others for a specific tactic. So the tactics will guide us," explained Mannetti.
The positive vibe also means his relatively youthful charges are coping well with being far from the comforts of home and focused on the job at hand, he said.
"We made it as comfy as possible for them. We had our own private gathering where we prayed together and celebrated going in to the new year together. We trained on the first day of January, so no break in the programme," said Mannetti.
In the training squad are: Edward Maova, Charles Uirab, Lodyt Kazapua, Calvin Spiegel, Ferdinand Karongee, Tiberius Lombard, Charles Hambira, Tjiuana-tja Tjinotjiua, Edmund Kambanda, Dynamo Fredericks, Hendrick Somaeb, Petrus Shitembi, Benyamin Nenkavu, Ronald Ketjijere, Emilio Martin, Absalom Iimbondi, Roger Katjiteo, Kleopas Useb, Gregory Auchumeb, Vitapi Ngaruka, Panduleni Nekundi, Junias Theophilus, Riaan Hanamub, Oswaldo Xamseb, Itamunua Keimuine and Himeezembi Hengombe.