By Carlos Kambaekwa
With barely five days left before the curtain opens for the 26th edition of Africa’s biggest sporting event to be hosted by Ghana this week, thousands of local football fanatics will be keeping their fingers crossed when Namibia makes her second appearance at the continental showpiece.
The Brave Warriors wrapped up their warm-up matches with a defeat at the hands of fellow African Nations Cup finalists Senegal in Dakar last weekend and some of the team’s diehards have expressed concern over the Warriors’ lackluster defence and their goal-shy strikers.
The Warriors’ rearguard has been too generous in as many matches – conceding an alarming tally of eleven goals in five matches while the team’s strike force could only manage a single strike from a combined 450 minutes of game time.
Namibia opens her assault in Group A in the three-week long tournament with a date against Morocco at the Ohono Djan stadium in Accra on Monday, 22nd of this month.
The other Group A contenders in what is widely expected to be a closely contested group are hosts Ghana and Guinea.
As opposed to previous finals where the cream of African footballers would shun the biennial continental event, it’s altogether a different kettle of fish this time around with almost all of Africa’s best on display in the West African country – barring injuries.
Ivory Coast look a sure bet to wrestle the title away from defending champions Egypt after their heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat to the very same Pharaohs last time around.
On paper, the Elephants have the most accomplished squad but could face stiff competition from the likes of Cameroon, hosts Ghana, defending champions Egypt, Senegal and the star-studded but under-achieving Super Eagles of Nigeria, while 2006 World cup finalists Angola could easily become party spoilers.
Of the four Southern African representatives, the Palanca Negras is the only team with a proven pedigree to carve itself a place in the quarterfinals while Zambia could also spring a surprise or two in the group stages.
Like Namibia, 2010 World cup hosts South Africa have been unconvincing in a number of warm-up matches and only managed to qualify for the continental showpiece as one of the three best-placed nations, after Bafana Bafana were humbled by Chris Katongo’s inspired Chipolopolos in their own backyard during the qualifiers.