The Brave Warriors should embrace the challenge of facing tough opposition at the upcoming Cosafa Cup, head coach Bobby Samaria says.
Namibia were yesterday drawn to face guest nation Senegal, six-time winners Zimbabwe, and Mozambique in Group C of the 20th Cosafa Cup edition set for South Africa's Nelson Mandela Bay from 7 to 18 July.
It augurs well for the Brave Warriors' long-term competitiveness to be up against tough rivals, the Namibian coach says.
"What a draw," Samaria exclaimed in a Cosafa TV video after learning of his side's opponents.
"I think Group C is without an iota of a doubt the group of death. What an opportunity to go play the 22nd best-ranked team in the world in Senegal, and of course facing the Cosafa six-time champion Zimbabwe. Notwithstanding the stern challenge that Mozambique will bring of course," he said.
These matches are likely to attract a lot of attention, especially from those who scour the tournament for bargain gems, Samaria said.
Not one to value individuals over the collective, Samaria has backed his charges to shine within the unit and reach the latter stages of the annual tournament, making a comeback after being cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"With contact sport being halted in country, this tournament provides an element of hope for our footballers, and you'll agree with me that most of our professional players, especially those in South Africa, have been scouted at past Cosafa tournaments," Samaria said.
"We are facing uncharted waters with the pandemic. We certainly look forward to playing our first match."
Namibia's solitary Cosafa title triumph came after a 2-0 final victory over Mozambique in 2015. Several of that history-making squad have gone on to become household names.
"It's important for us to keep creating these platforms for our players to go and do what they love, and give them the opportunity to be scouted for them to sign professional contracts and improve their way of life," said Samaria.
Hosts South Africa also have an intriguing group that includes neighbours Lesotho, Botswana and Eswatini. Bafana Bafana and Botswana have long been foes in this regional competition.
Defending champions Zambia will face Malawi and the island nations of Madagascar and Comoros in their first-round pool.
Only the top team in each group and the best-placed runner-up will advance to the semi-finals in what is a change in formation for the tournament this year.
That means each side is guaranteed three games up to a maximum of five, which will provide vital preparation for those national teams involved in 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers later this year.
The 19 previous editions of the competition have seen some great performances and incredible games that have been written into the folklore of Southern African football, but only five nations can claim to have lifted the coveted trophy.
Zimbabwe (six wins) lead the way, followed by Zambia (five), South Africa (four), Angola (three) and Namibia (one).
Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana have all twice been finalists, but ended up on the losing side on both occasions.
Lesotho (2000) are the only other team to reach the decider.