WINDHOEK – With the draw for the 24 teams participating in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finalised and confirmed last Friday, and for Namibians, attention now turns to the Brave Warriors preparations and their prospects of making an impact in Egypt.
Namibia has been drawn in Group-D of the 2019 Afcon alongside continental football heavyweights Ivory Coast, Morocco and regional rivals South Africa.
Many local football lovers have expressed their fear and worry with the magnitude of Namibia’s Group-D opponents and if the Brave Warriors really do stand any chance of holding their own against the likes of Ivory Coast or 2018 World Cup participants Morocco.
But history somehow demands that Namibia rises to the occasion in Egypt come June when the Afcon kicks off and many Namibians would wish that it was 1998 all over again when the boys from the Land of the Brave gave a good account of themselves in Burkina Faso 98.
Except for Morocco, debutants Namibia were drawn in Group-C of the 1998 Afcon in Burkina Faso alongside South Africa, Ivory Coast and Angola and they stood head and shoulder against continental giants Ivory Coast in their opening match in that tournament when they narrowly lost 4-3.
Current Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti scored one of the goals in that match and Eliphas Shivute scored the other two. In their second match, Namibia held Angola to a 3-all draw thanks to goals from Gerros Urikob and Robert Nauseb, but suffered 4-1 defeat against South Africa in their final group match.
Ten years later at the 2008 Afcon in Ghana, Namibia were drawn in Group-A alongside Morocco, Ghana and Guinea. The Brave Warriors lost to Morocco 5-1 in the opening match and 1-0 against Ghana in the second group match, before holding Guinea to a 1-1 draw in their final group match.
With history of the two aforementioned Afcons providing perspective as far as Namibia is concerned, the much-improved Brave Warriors should have little to fear heading into this year’s Afcon as they should draw inspiration from that 1998 narrow 4-3 defeat against Ivory Coast and believe they can surpass that outcome when they face the Elephants of Ivory Coast this time around in Egypt on 1 July.
And unlike at the 1998 Afcon when South Africa hammered Namibia 4-1, the Brave Warriors of 2019 are a far cry from that of 1998 and under shrewd the mentorship of Mannetti, they have become a respected regional powerhouse in their own right, very much capable of equaling South Africa pound for pound on a good day.