Namibia opened their 2022 World Cup Qualifying Group H campaign with a 1-1 draw at “home” to Congo at the Orlando Stadium on Thursday evening.
Playing at the Soweto venue after their usual home grounds in Windhoek were deemed below standard by CAF, the Brave Warriors claimed the lead via Charles Hambira in the first half, but were pegged back after the break by the Red Devils’ Guy Mbenza.
The result means Namibia and Congo are tied for second on the standings, with group favourites Senegal leading on three points after they beat Togo 2-0 on Wednesday.
Congo started the brighter of the two teams and made all the early running, though Namibia soon clicked into gear after weathering the early storm and missed out on a great chance when Peter Shalulile was unable to beat Congo goalkeeper Christoffer Mafoumbi from a dropping ball in the penalty area.
The “hosts” then claimed the lead just past the midway point of the first half, with Deon Hotto’s delivery from a free kick allowing Charles Hambira to score with a glancing header which flashed just the right side of the far post as far as the Brave Warriors were concerned.
The Red Devils responded well to going behind and enjoyed spells of pressure through the remainder of the first half, though Namibia’s well-organised defence ensured the likes of Yann Mabella, Antoine Makoumbou and Silvere Ganvoula could only feed off scraps.
The start of the second half saw both sides shuffle their pack, with Vieljeux Mboungou and Guy Mbenza replacing Mabella and Gaius Makouta for Congo, while Namibia swapped out Alfeus Handura and Willy Stephanus in favour of Dynamo Fredericks and Wangu Gome.
Mbenza proved to be a key man for the visitors, forcing an equaliser in the 57th minute: he latched onto a rebound from Lloyd Kazapua’s save and, from a tight angle on the right side of the penalty area, found the back of the net via the legs of Hambira.
Mbenza nearly forced another goal through his energy and pressing from the front, as he charged down an attempted clearance from Kazapua in the 71st minute, but the ball went behind for a goal kick.
The Red Devils sat back in the latter part of the match, inviting pressure from Namibia, but they remained dangerous on the counter attack and almost claimed the lead for the first time on 88 minutes when Mbenza struck the post with a low shot across the face of goal.
The final whistle saw the teams locked at 1-1 and sharing the spoils with a point apiece. Namibia will next face Togo away in Lome on Sunday, while Congo will play host to Senegal in Brazzaville on Tuesday. – SuperSport
Namibia: Kazapua, Kamberipa, Hambira, Gebhardt, Hanamub, Stephanus (Gome 46’), Handura (Fredericks 46’), Haoseb, Hotto, Kamatuka (Kambindu 65’), Shalulile
Congo:Mafoumbi, Tsouka Dozi, Rozan, Bitsindou, Mazikou, Mbemba, Makouta (Mbenza 46’), Mabella (Mboungou 46’), Makoumbou (Itali 62’), Tchibota (Makouana 55’), Ganvoula