19 January 2018

Namibia: Warriors Have What It Takes to Make a Statement

Brave Warriors mentor, Ricardo Mannetti is a man on a serious mission. Let me doff my korrie for the Brave Warriors gutsy performance in their opening group match against their much-fancied opponents Ivory Coast.

The match was reminiscent of the historic comeback against the very same opponents at AFCON in Burkina Faso, in 1998 exactly 20 years ago.

Namibian made her maiden appearance as the lowest entrants just on the back of the Brave Warriors astonishing giant killing in the regional COSAFA Cup that saw the Namibian amateurs send reigning African champions South Africa's 'Bafana Bafana' packing.

Jointly mentored by German import Peter Uberjahn and Rusten Mogane - the Warriors stunned the football world when they came from three goals down to draw level against one of the tournament's favourites - the Joel Tiehi's inspired Ivorians - only to succumb to a last minute goal, eventually going down 4-3 in a match where the Namibians looked dead and buried.

Twenty years down the line, the two nations return to action again and though very few football pundits including some locals gave the Warriors the slightest of chances to upset the applecart - Manneti, who played a prominent role as a highly rated young holding midfielder in the historic seven goal thriller, still had some unfinished business with the imposing West Africans.

Whilst many might argue that there was an element of luck in the Warriors' triumph, the last minute glancing headed goal by Charles Hambira was an absolute gem and certainly an early contender for best goal of the continental tournament.

Namibia went into the tie as underdogs, but demonstrated phenomenal discipline accompanied by astonishing tactical and technical awareness in both defence and the middle of the park.

Let us give credit where it's due. The boys gave nothing away and were prepared to die on the pitch for their native land with their boots on despite the muscular Ivorians enjoying the lion share of ball possession

As confirmed Namibians, we have a moral obligation and duty to throw our weight rallying behind the boys as they gear up to rewrite the history books.

Just three years ago, Ricardo Mannetti's Warriors surprised friend and foe when they clinched the annual Regional COSAFA Cup - which the author personally rates a more highly competitive tourney than CHAN - considering the volume of participants.

Playing in a four-nation group comprising of continental powerhouses Uganda, Zambia and Ivory Coast - Namibia should have no business coming through unscathed from the 'Group of Death' but football is changing dramatically as there are no longer small teams or whipping boys in international football. Dispatching Ivory Coast should have served as morale booster ahead of our crunch match (last night) against Uganda, as victory would in all likelihood guarantee us a spot in the quarterfinal of Africa's second tier showpiece, obviously if the other results go our way.

Nonetheless, I've no doubts in my mind and strongly believe our boys have the required capacity to go through to the next round if their performance against the Ivorians is anything to go by. I rest my case.


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