16 January 2019

Morocco/Namibia: Assured Stars Head to Morocco

African Stars leave for Marrakesh in Morocco today, quietly confident ahead of their Caf Confederations Cup second-leg match against Raja Casablanca on Sunday.

After holding the defending champions to a 1-1 draw in the first leg in Windhoek last Saturday, the odds will be stacked against Stars, but coach Bobby Samaria said they were confident of causing an upset in Morocco.

"We did exceptionally well against all the odds against Raja last Saturday. Because of their pedigree, no one gave us a chance, but pedigree is one thing, and playing the game is another. We played hard, with a bit of a chip on our shoulder, and it showed," he said at a press conference in Windhoek on Tuesday.

"We will now go to Marrakesh and represent Namibia to the best of our ability. Obviously, we want to win, and we are going into the game with that mentality, to win the match and qualify for the group stages of the competition," he added.

As the defending champions and one of the biggest clubs in Africa, Raja will be the firm favourites to win the tie. But Samaria said there was a new spirit of positivity in the Stars camp that they hoped to use to their advantage.

"Before my arrival, Stars had just lost 5-1 to Black Africa, and there was a lot of doom and gloom around the club. But we managed to regroup, and now there is a lot of positivity.

"To hold Raja to a 1-1 draw was a huge achievement for the players and myself, and it also underlines the strength of Namibian football. I think our football is very underrated, and our performance showed that.

"The mood in the camp is very positive, and the spirit is high. We will wrap up our preparations here in Windhoek, and then we will just have a light training session in Marrakesh on Friday, and two hours at the match venue on Saturday before the match on Sunday," he continued.

While acknowledging that they would be the underdogs, Samaria said they would try to hit Raja on the counter-attack.

"We are mentally prepared for the match, and the pressure will be on them to get a result. We must just keep it tight at the back, and try and hit them on the counter-attack. Our first passes must be penetrating so that we go into the final third with as few passes as possible - that will be our strategy."

"We conceded some soft goals in our previous matches, so we have to be mentally sharp and ready for these challenges. We should not be oblivious of the gulf in class between us, but we are secretly confident that we can hold our own," he added.

At the same occasion, Debmarine Namibia handed over a cheque of N$100 000 to African Stars to help them with their preparations.

Debmarine Namibia's acting CEO Willy Mertens said although the country was facing a financial crunch, the company decided to assist African Stars for the second time because of the importance of the competition, as well as the importance of Namibia being represented at continental level.

The two teams are in contention to become one of the 16 teams which will qualify for the group stages of the CAF Confederations Cup. The teams that progress will be divided into groups of four, with each guaranteed at least US$275 000.

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