1 July 2019

Namibia/Cote d'Ivoire: Its Not Over Yet As David Meets Goliath

Photo: CAF TV/You Tube
Namibia play Ivory Coast, July 1, 2019.

The Brave Warriors still have a remote chance of reaching the knockout stages of Afcon despite losing their opening two matches 1-0 against Morocco and South Africa.

But for that to happen they will have to beat the Ivory Coast on Monday night and hope that Morocco beats South Africa, while goal difference will also come into play.

So far, only Morocco, who have won both their matches for a total of six points, are assured of reaching the knockout stages.

The Ivory Coast and South Africa are both on three points with a zero goal difference, while Namibia is on zero points with a minus two goal difference.

Namibia will therefore have to beat the Ivory Coast by two goals, while South Africa loses by one goal to Morocco; or Namibia will have to beat Ivory Coast by one goal, while South Africa loses by two or more goals, for Namibia to progress to the knockout stages.

Besides that, even if Namibia finish third in the group, they might still have a chance of qualifying, since the four best third-placed teams will also progress to the Last 16 knockout stages.

At the moment, South Africa and Kenya, who are both on three points, and Benin and Angola, on two points each, are the three best third-placed teams.

It will be a tall order against a star-studded Ivory Coast side, which includes the likes of Lille winger Nicholas Pepe, Spurs right back Serge Aurier, AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, Swansea striker Wilfried Bony and Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodja.

They've even had the luxury of leaving arguably their best player, Wilfried Zaha, who plays for Crystal Palace in the English Premier League, on the bench for their first two matches.

According to recent reports, Palace have slapped a 100 million Pound price tag on his head amidst interest from Arsenal.

The Ivory Coast, though, have not been at their best at Afcon, losing 1-0 to Morocco and beating South Africa 1-0, and Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti remained positive that they could get a good result on Monday night.

"We will be different and we remain positive to get something from the final group game against Ivory Coast, who are a top side with quality players that can win games. We still have a game to play and we will do our best to finish off with a bang," he told nfa.org.na

In the last encounter between the two sides, Namibia, however, finished on top with a 1-0 victory in the Chan tournament for local-based players in January 2018, and at a press conference on Sunday, Mannetti said that result will inspire them.

"When we play the Ivory Coast it's always a David versus Goliath affair and the fact that we could get a victory against them in the Chan competition meant so much to the Namibian nation and that will give us so much hope. But we will have to do more than our previous two games - we will have to give a 100 percent defensive performance, while our finishing and decision making up front will have to be better than what it was against South Africa."

Mannetti added that they had shown a steady improvement in the tournament so far.

"We were a bit nervous against Morocco, but we had more confidence against South Africa and we actually got into the box and created some good scoring opportunities. So we are getting closer to our goal and I'd like to believe that my team has it in them to now translate those opportunities into goals," he said.

Namibian midfielder Petrus Shitembi said they are highly motivated ahead of the Ivory Coast showdown.

"We are a bit disappointed that we haven't got the results that we were aiming for, but I think we can take a lot of pride out of our performances and a lot of motivation going into our final match, so we hope for a good result against the Ivory Coast," he said.

"We don't fear anyone - we've held our own over the past two matches, so we hope to go out there and put up a very gallant performance and leave everything on the field," he added.

Against South Africa last Friday, Bongani Zungu scored the winner in the 68th minute, when he rose unopposed to head in a corner by Percy Tau.

South Africa had several more chances, but Namibian keeper Lloydt Kazapua once again had a fine game and brought off some great saves.

Namibia also had some chances with a shot by Deon Hotto cleared off the line, while a cross by substitute Joslin Kamatuka was just cleared in time by the South African defence.

It was a fine defensive effort by Namibia though, as they managed to keep South Africa at bay for most of the match, but they will have to improve on their finishing, which left much to be desired.

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