Although they will be facing stiff competition from this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semi-finalist Zambia in today’s Cosafa Cup opening match, Namibia’s Brave Gladiators gaffer Paulus Shipanga has maintained they are well prepared and will execute their game plan to the letter.
Gladiators will today get their 2022 Cosafa Cup campaign underway with a clash against the Copper Queens of Zambia at the Madibaz Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa. Namibia is in Group B of the 2022 Cosafa Cup alongside Zambia, Lesotho and Eswatini.
This year’s regional showpiece officially started yesterday and runs until 11 September 2022, and it will only see the top teams automatically qualifying for the semifinals, along with the best runner-up from the three pools.
Speaking to New Era Sport yesterday, Shipanga said although they remain wary of Zambia’s potential, they will put their best foot forward and aim to get a good opening result. He added they have put in place a great game plan and it will be up to the players to execute it.
“The team has been preparing and is very much ready for the opening match. As coaches, we have done our part to put in place a good game plan and to ensure the players respond well to our plan; it is now up to the players to execute our plan as discussed in training. Our goal remains the same: to win the competition – and we will be taking it one game at a time,” said Shipanga.
In terms of players’ fitness levels, the coach said his technical supporting staff has been hard at work ensuring the players are well-oiled and ready to respond to the huge task at hand.
“As for the fitness part, our supporting coaches have done a great job to make sure the girls are ready and can take on any task. Obviously, they are not at 100% as we would have wanted because of the short time we had to prepare for the tournament, but they are definitely up there with the rest of the other countries.”
The Gladiators have made six previous appearances at the Cosafa Cup, first turning up in 2006, 2008, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021, but have never won the competition. In their first showing in 2006, they claimed an excellent 2-2 draw with Zambia and then thumped Eswatini 6-0 in the pool stages – enough to see them into the semifinals as runners-up in their group.
They gained revenge over Zambia with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out victory after a 1-1 draw but lost in the final to South Africa when they went down 3-1.
They reached the semifinals again two years later but were this time ousted at that stage by South Africa, ironically by the same score line.
They had less success in 2017, beating Botswana 4-0 in their opener, but losing 2-1 to Lesotho and once again suffering a 3-1 loss to South Africa to finish bottom of their pool.
The following year, they beat Eswatini 4-1, but a defeat to Zimbabwe (0-1) and a draw with East African guest nation Uganda (0-1) meant they did not progress to the knockout stages.
They were back in 2019 but won only one of their three games, an 8-0 hammering of Mauritius.
Before that, they lost to Botswana (0-1) and Zambia (2-3).
They took four points in 2021, drawing with a strong Uganda team 0-0 in their opener before a 3-0 loss to Zambia and a 1-0 win over Eswatini.
It was not enough to reach the semifinals.