WINDHOEK – Had it not been for an unfortunate 89th minute own goal by substitute Itamunua Keimuine, the Brave Warriors of Namibia were just over five minutes away from holding 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) top favourites Morocco to a goalless draw in late yesterday’s Group D opener at the Al-Salam Stadium in Cairo, Egypt.
It was a match of contrasting fortunes, which saw the Atlas Lions of Morocco enjoy the lion’s share of proceedings but their superior advantage in all departments failed to yield the desired goals as a resilient Namibia kept fighting tooth and nail at the back, especially goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua who made countless fantastic saves.
Just as the Brave Warriors looked well on course to collect a valuable point against one of the tournament’s favourites, Keimune inadvertently headed the ball into his own net with just a few minutes left on the clock as he tried to clear a free-kick by Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech.
The Brave Warriors – who were given no chance by almost all football pundits – showed character and bravery as they held their own against the Moroccans and almost appeared well routed to a momentous stalemate before the single moment of error by Keimuine gifted the Atlas Lions three valuable points.
Coach Herve Renard’s men had struggled to break down a resolute Namibian defence and often tried their luck on set pieces, one of which gave the desired result later on.
Geingob rallies the Brave Warriors on
Despite the unfortunate defeat, a proud President Hage Geingob late yesterday – immediately after the match – took to his official Twitter account to hail the team’s courageous performance and urged them to display the same bravery and determination when they face South Africa on Friday for their second group match.
“#BraveWarriors…it was a brave performance against Morocco in the opening match of the #TotalAFCON2019. Play with the same courage in the next matches. We are proud of you. Well done!” reads his cheering post.
In addition, in an earlier statement, the Head of State – in his capacity as chairperson of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) – equally extended his well wishes to all teams from the region partaking in the ongoing Afcon and encouraged them to remain good sporting ambassadors on and off the field.