Brave Warriors legend and one of Namibia’s all-time greatest midfield kingpins, Congo Hindjou, yesterday said Namibia’s failure to make an impact in the ongoing 2021 Africa Cup Nations (Afcon) qualifiers should be blamed on an assortment of on and off the field shortcomings.
As far as Tuesday’s 1-2 second leg defeat against a tactically and technically superior Malian side at the Sam Nujoma Stadium is concerned, Hindjou said the overall performance of the team was below par on the day and that a handful of key players failed to come to the party.
Hindjou, who remains Namibia’s most capped player with 69 caps for the Brave Warriors, said Tuesday’s match exposed the loopholes in the Warriors’ midfield and also how tactically the team lacks in some departments.
The visiting Malians turned Tuesday’s match into one-way traffic with their unmatched ability to dictate the pace of the match and their tactical ability in the middle of the park – an area the Warriors were totally outmuscled and outfoxed by their much experienced gigantic opponents.
The likes of Petrus Shitembi, Denzil Haoseb, Absalom Iimbondi and Deon Hotto were all for the better part of Tuesday’s match denied the space and time by the Malians to get into their usual groove, as the visitors controlled almost all play in the engine room. Individual heroic performances by the likes of goalkeeper Virgil Vries and the promising Elmo Kambunda as well as a few others were perhaps the highlight of an otherwise lukewarm match.
But Hindjou believes there is little coach Bobby Samaria and his assistant Robert Nauseb could have done to turn around the match, saying: “If your key players are not coming to the party in such a crucial match and your midfield is overwhelmed to a worrying extent as was the case on Tuesday, there is honestly little you can do as a coach.
People might argue and say the starting line-up was not correct and certain players should have started and so forth, but I personally think the players themselves should take responsibility. They did not come to the party and the inconsistency of some of our key players is worrying.”
Hindjou, a pivotal member of the pioneering Brave Warriors 1998 squad, continued: “As much as we are disappointed, we should also understand that the Malian squad is an experienced side with most of their players playing in various European leagues, and that is always going to be a huge determining factor. When you look at how we were outthought by the Malians in midfield, it exposed the need for a matured and well-tested player like our former captain Stigga Ketjijere, who knew how to command his troops and his ripened leadership skills in midfield would always prevail when desperately needed.
Also, maybe the time is also ripe for us as a nation to turn our attention to feeder systems and for our sport ministry to look into creating working agreements that will start seeing Namibian players being drafted to European academies and so on. We need bilateral sport agreements like the ones of yesteryear that enabled the likes of Razundara Tjikuzu and others to join European academies. There’s a lot that needs to be done.”
As it currently stands, Namibia’s hopes of qualifying for the 2021 Afcon are down to almost zero, as the Warriors are stationed third with three points on Group A’s log table. With Tuesday’s win, Mali qualified with their 10 points and are trailed by Guinea with eight and Chad is rooted bottom with no point. Namibia’s remaining two 2021 Afcon qualifiers will be against Guinea and Chad next year.