THE waiting is finally over as the Brave Warriors are due to make their debut at the Africa Nations Championship in Limbe, Cameroon against Guinea tonight.
Namibia go into the match as the underdogs, but the Brave Warriors are determined to cause an upset and start on a positive note.
At a press conference in Limbe yesterday, Brave Warriors captain Dynamo Fredericks said they had set themselves high standards for the tournament.
"Guinea have a strong squad and we respect them as opponents, but we are not here to participate, we are here to compete, to play to the best of our abilities and to showcase our talents, and we are eager to win the Chan competition," he said.
Coach Bobby Samaria acknowledged that they didn't have the best of preparations, in the absence of a local league, while 11 players had to miss 10 days of training after testing positive for Covid-19, but he said they would rise to the occasion.
"We haven't had local football for about 18 months now, but we've still managed to qualify for Chan. We are now here in the midst of Covid-19 to compete against other countries that had the good fortune of having a domestic league, but whenever we are faced with adversity, we always rise to the occasion. I have no doubt in my mind that we will represent our country to the best of our ability."
Samaria said the absence of the players who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 did not affect their training too much.
"For almost two weeks we did not have a full complement of players, but having been around with me since July 2019, the majority of them already knew the tactical plan. Since we arrived here on the 15th of January, we have had four training sessions when we concentrated more on our tactics, so I don't think there should be any reason for concern," he said.
Samaria was upbeat about their chances, but he kept his cards close to his chest regarding his opponents.
"For any team, the first game of any tournament is of vital importance for the simple reason that it sets the tone for the remainder of the tournament. I think it's an unfair question to ask me what I know of our opponents, because there is no coach who would gladly divulge what he knows of his opponents without giving away his intelligence, so come tomorrow and you'll see what we know of our opponents.
"There's no coach in the world who will start the match not believing that he can win. It's obviously our objective to go out there and get a positive result," he added.
Guinea are currently ranked 14th in Africa and 73rd in the world, compared to Namibia's respective rankings of 30th and 110th. Guinea also have a much better head-to-head record, having won six matches and drawn two, while they beat Namibia 2-0 in their most recent Afcon meeting in November 2019.
These statistics, of course, relate to the full national sides, while Chan is limited to home-based players, but here, Guinea also hold the edge.
They are playing in their third consecutive Chan tournament, and although they were knocked out during the group stages at Morocco in 2018, they finished fourth overall on their debut in Rwanda in 2016.
Namibia made their debut in Morocco 2018 when they pulled off a few shocks to reach the quarterfinals. They beat the Ivory Coast 1-0 and Uganda by the same score, with both goals coming in the dying minutes of the game, while they drew 1-1 to Zambia, to finish second in their group, before losing 2-0 to eventual champions Morocco in the quarterfinals.
Namibia, however, have the advantage of a settled and experienced squad, with a lot of the players already having made their mark for the first-choice national side.
They include captain Fredericks who has 35 caps to his name, Absalom Iimbondi (41 caps), Vitapi Ngaruka (18), Emilio Martin (17), Marcel Papama (17) and Panduleni Nekundi (13).
Others like Aprocius Petrus, Alfeus Handura, Issaskar Gurirab and Elmo Kambindu have also strengthened their case with good performances in recent times, and with strength in depth and quality, Namibia certainly has the potential to cause an upset.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, meanwhile, got off to a winning start in Group B after beating neighbours, Congo Brazzaville, 1-0 on Sunday night.
Chico Ushindi scored the winner shortly after half time, to put the Leopards at the top of Group B, after Libya and Niger had earlier played to a 0-0 draw.
The Leopards are one of the favourites to win the tournament, after having previously won the title in 2009 and 2016.