By Carlos Kambaekwa
Namibia’s countdown to her second appearance at the 16-nation African Cup of Nations finals was dealt a further blow when the Brave Warriors suffered a 3-0 hiding from fellow qualifiers and reigning continental champions Egypt in the Egyptian Southern capital on Saturday.
As has become customary practice, that oak door of the Warriors’ defence manned by Ramblers’ towering defender Michael “Dolam Tower” Pienaar and Civics’ Franklin April held their own and failed to yield under the pressure in the opening 45 minutes of the match only to succumb in the second half.
The Pharaohs, who fielded a full strength team, had to wait until the 54th minute before carving open the somewhat overworked and stubborn Namibian defensive wall.
Amr Zaki was the toast of the frustrated home fans when the Cairo-based Zamalek’s goal poacher struck twice in the second half to steer the Pharaohs to their umpteenth victory over the hapless Warriors.
Mohamed Aboutraika from recently dethroned African Club Champions Al Ahly came off the substitute’s bench for ineffective midfielder Omar Gamal shortly before the changeover and immediately made his presence felt.
Zaki broke the deadlock nine minutes into the second half after a neat back heel from Abd Rabou, before inspirational captain Ahmed Hassan drilled in the second with 12 minutes remaining on the clock.
Hassan, who plays his club football with Anderlecht in the Belgium elite league was back in the picture when his well measured free kick was nodded in by Zaki on the stroke of full time.
The result was Namibia’s fourth consecutive defeat in International Friendlies since qualifying for the 16-nation finals, which gets underway in Ghana on the 20th of this month.
The Warriors have already suffered marginal losses to fellow qualifiers Morocco and Tunisia in previous friendlies and were also the recipient of another narrow defeat at the hands of unfashionable Saudi Arabia.
Namibia played for the first time under the tutelage of unknown newly appointed Dutch coach, Arie Schans, since the death of Zambian import Benson Bamfuchile last month. The likeable Zambian coach single-handedly guided Namibia to the finals of the 26th edition of the continental showpiece – a feat that immediately won him the hearts of the hard-to-please local football fans.
The winless Warriors are to wrap up their preparation for the continental showpiece when they confront Senegal in Dakar on Saturday, January 12, before opening their assault in the 3-week tourney with a date against Morocco at the Ohono Djan stadium in Accra on January 21. The Warriors are pitted in Group-A alongside hosts Ghana, Morocco and Guinea.