WINDHOEK – An irate Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti yesterday said he was shocked and disappointed to note that some Namibians had nothing positive to say about the Brave Warriors’ qualification to this year’s African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Namibia’s Brave Warriors were hammered 4-1 by Zambia in their last qualification match in Lusaka last weekend but however still managed to secure a spot at the 2019 Afcon in Egypt, when they were gifted a huge favour by Guinea-Bissau, who held Mozambique to a 2-all draw in a concurrent Group K match in Bissau.
Heading into last weekend’s match Namibia had three options on the table, and that was to either beat Zambia and automatically qualify irrespective of the results between Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau; or either had to secure a draw against Zambia and hope that Mozambique also plays to a draw or lose to Guinea-Bissau, and another final option was that if Namibia lose to Zambia – which is what happened last weekend – they had to pray and hope that Guinea-Bissau defeats or draws against Mozambique.
But as fate had it last weekend, the Brave Warriors lost against Zambia but luckily Guinea-Bissau managed to hold the Mambas of Mozambique to a 2-all draw, which was exactly one of the options Namibia needed to qualify for their third Afcon as they had a better head-to-head record over Mozambique, having beaten them home and away.
But despite securing qualification to this year’s Afcon, which was the biggest current objective for the country, Namibians from various walks of life were not too impressed with the team’s performance in their 4-1 whipping at the hands of a clinical and well-organised Zambian team.
Many cynics were of the opinion that the Brave Warriors needed an overhaul before their Afcon participation, while others squarely blamed Mannetti and his charges for last Saturday’s poor performance and questioned whether Mannetti was still the right man for the job and that some players’ days in the national team were numbered
But at a well-attended press conference held at Football House in the capital yesterday, Mannetti refused to entertain such opinions, saying Namibians “forget too quickly because this is the very same players and coach that brought the team this far and eventually gained qualification, now they (critics) are saying the squad is not worthy of going to Afcon”. The 2015 Cosafa Cup-winning coach, who also guided Namibia to her first ever African Nations Championship (Chan) qualification last year, said it was unfair for Namibians to sum up the Brave Warriors marathon 2019 Afcon qualification campaign in just one match, adding that Namibia’s qualification bid was birthed way back in 2015 and didn’t only start with the defeat in Zambia last weekend.
“When I took over as coach in 2015, I said I will embark on a big project to qualify Namibia for the 2019 Afcon and with the same players that helped Namibia qualify to this year’s Afcon, we fought hard and had to overcome many challenges to get the team where it is today.
During our tough campaign, we managed to beat Mozambique home and away and drew two games (against Zambia and Bissau) and only lost twice, a performance that played a huge role last Saturday, so how can people start doubting the team because of one day’s being bad at the office? The mission was to qualify and we achieved that mission, Namibia is going to Egypt and that is what we should be celebrating as a nation, not bashing the players and coach. Namibians are so quick to forget,” said an enraged Mannetti.