Windhoek – The Brave Warriors are facing their biggest test in African football, with Zambia the last hurdle in their impressive march to qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals scheduled for June/July in Egypt.
Namibia are second in Group K on eight points and need a positive result from their away encounter against Zambia on 22 March. They will also be hoping for a huge favour from group leaders Guinea Bissau (also on eight points) to defeat or draw against Mozambique, who are in third place on seven points.
Namibia have a poor record in continental football competitions, having appeared twice ‑ in the Afcon finals in 1998 and 2008. However, Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti has been on a mission to break the unimpressive record this time around.
Mannetti has described the upcoming clash against Chipolopolo as a duel while cautioning his youthful squad against complacency. The former Brave Warriors midfielder told media in Windhoek on Monday that the match against Zambia is crucial and preparations are well in advance.
Zambia, the 2012 Afcon champions, will be playing for pride, having already fallen by the wayside in the race. Chipolopolo’s form in the continental football showpiece has been deteriorating since defeating Ivory Coast to win their first continental title. They also failed to qualify for the 2017 Afcon final.
“Zambia might be out of the qualification race but they are a very good side. They will not just roll over and we have to be aware of that and understand that we need to prepare and go there prepared to do our best against a very good traditional powerhouse of African football,” Mannetti warned.
“We want to qualify; we have to qualify and we will treat the game as any other, but with special attention, as it will be the last game and we need to do well and reach the finals. We have come a long way and the only way to finish this off in style will be with qualification to the Afcon finals.”
Meanwhile, the Namibia Football Association (NFA) has urged Mannetti and his team on ahead of the crucial game in Lusaka. The head of NFA’s interim leadership committee appointed by FIFA, Hilda Basson-Namundjebo has said the football association will leave no stone unturned to ensure that the team goes and excels in Zambia.
“It’s a game of great significance and we go to Zambia to reclaim the history. Zambia has been great friends of ours and we go there to win. We are confident because we are Namibians. We focus on success and excellence,” said Basson-Namundjebo during the launch of this year's edition of The Namibian Newspaper Cup on Friday, March 1.
Intriguing football scenarios await the Namibian team in the Group K encounter on March 23.
For Namibia to qualify they need to avoid a defeat by Zambia and in case they lose – Mozambique should lose to Guinea Bissau.
In the case of a draw between the latter – Namibia still qualify thanks to superior head-to -head record against Mozambique.
Overall, fate seems to favour Namibia because Guinea Bissau are also wary going into the match against Mozambique because a loss for them and a win for Namibia would end their march to the land of the Pharaohs.
Meanwhile, the sports ministry has teamed with the Namibia Sports Commission (NSC), Namibia Football Association (NFA) and the Brave Warriors Supporters Club to avail three 65-seater buses to transport football fans to and from Zambia for the match in Lusaka.
According to NFA, there will be a bus each from Windhoek, Oshakati and Rundu. Individuals travelling from Windhoek are expected to contribute R700, from Oshakati R500, and from Rundu R400, while those in Katima Mulilo will contribute R350.
“The funds contributed will be used for fuel and paying the drivers. The Namibian government can only cater for fuel within Namibian borders,” NFA said on Tuesday.
“The organising committee is still working on getting affordable accommodation in Zambia for all supporters and talks are ongoing with the NFA management to get replica shirts at an affordable rate for everyone”.
However, the football association cautioned Brave Warriors supports there is no prior booking for the seats, it is strictly on a first come, first served basis. In Windhoek, tickets are available at NFA and NSC offices.