WINDHOEK – Going into tomorrow’s historic 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against the Chipolopolos of Zambia, the Brave Warriors of Namibia will take to the field with a clear understanding of what is at stake and what a possible victory will mean for the country.
The Brave Warriors have traveled through tough terrains and have crossed long gushing rivers of crocodile-infested waters in their enduring 2019 Afcon qualifying campaign to get this far and frankly speaking, the boys from the Land of the Brave will tomorrow stop at nothing to apply every trick in the book of wars to conquer their regional rivals.
Tomorrow’s match at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka will not only be about bagging the three points at stake for the Brave Warriors, but there is an important historic aspect to the match as Namibia also wants to secure only her third appearance at the continent’s biggest football showpiece.
The country made its maiden Afcon appearance in 1998 in Burkina Faso before returning 10 years later in 2008 in Ghana, therefore history calls upon the Brave Warriors to run their lungs out and work their socks off to ensure they defeat Zambia and eventually book their seat at this year’s Afcon in Egypt.
And this is a task that astute national team head coach Ricardo Mannetti, who was part of Namibia’s famous 1998 squad, defines as the turning moment in Namibian football history and one that requires determination, hard work and courage to secure qualification.
“It’s now or never. We are finally here. Project 2019 is finally about to be decided and it will be that one match on Saturday in Lusaka that we have to do our best to realize our dream and destiny. So much work, so much pain over the years and in recent times and we are finally here, only one match to go and we have to do it. The boys understand the task at hand and the technical team have worked very hard to prepare them for the battle on Saturday,” said a confident Mannetti, who steered Namibia to her 2015 Cosafa Cup glory.
Namibia will however have to do battle without the reliable services of young workaholic defender Vitapi Ngaruka, who could not be prioritised for the Zambia clash due to paperwork issues.
“Vitapi will not join us but we have enough depth in defence and we will prepare as such and go to Zambia to get the result we need to qualify, and remember it is really in our hands so we can’t afford to throw it away,” Mannetti informed the media.
The first Group K meeting between Namibia and Zambia took place in Windhoek in September last year, with the teams playing to a 1-1 draw: Benson Shilongo put the hosts ahead, but Chipolopolo struck back at the death through Justin Shonga.
The Brave Warriors have their fate in their own hands as a win over Zambia will guarantee qualification and a third Afcon appearance, but in the event that Namibia loses to Zambia tomorrow, they should hope and pray that Mozambique also lose to Guinea-Bissau or that Mozambique plays to a draw against Guinea-Bissau as those two scenarios will still see Namibia qualify with her better head-to-head statistics over Mozambique. The Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique match will be played simultaneously in Bissau.
Brave Warriors for Zambia: Virgil Vries, Maximillian Mbaeva, Loydt Kazapua, Petrus Shitembi, Tiberius Lombard, Ananias Gebhardt, Willy Stephanus, Denzil Haoseb, Peter Shalulile, Marcel Papama, Riaan Hanamub, Dynamo Fredericks, Emilio Martin, Ronald Ketjijere, Benson Shilongo, Ivan Kamberipa, Edmund Kambanda, Muna Katupose, Sadney Urikhob, Joslin Kamatuka, Charles Hambira, Treasure Kauapirura, Itamunua Keimuine, Immanuel Heita, Absalom Iimbondi and Deon Hotto.