By Carlos Kambaekwa
Namibia’s wounded Brave Warriors will go into their penultimate Group A match against hosts Ghana with their backs against the wall following their humiliating defeat against Morocco in their opening match of the MTN Africa Cup of Nations under way in Ghana.
The Warriors were totally out of sorts in their match against the fired-up Atlas Lions and will be looking to a much improved showing when they confront the Black Stars in their own backyard at the gigantic Ohene Djan Stadium in Accra this evening.
The hosts scrambled to an unconvincing narrow 2-1 win over a stubborn Guinea outfit in their opening match and will need to jack up their act if they are to collect maximum points against Namibia before going into their final group match against Group A leaders Morocco.
The Moroccans announced their presence and intentions in no uncertain terms in the three-week tourney with an impressive 5-1 hammering of a hapless Namibian team and shot to the summit of Group A on day two.
Whilst the Namibians are still licking their wounds, the technical staff can take solace from the fact that the team went into the match without three key members of the squad who were ineligible for selection because of suspension.
The trio, led by tough-as-steak defender Hartman Toromba, Sydney Plaatjies and Gotlieb Nakuta will in all probability be included in the star-ting line-up against the Black Stars with coach Arie Schans expected to bring changes to the team that started against Morocco.
Butterfingered net minder Zico Shaningayamwe is likely to make way for Athiel Mbaha with Plaatjies a definite starter at left-back in place of the erratic Franklin April, who was hauled off at halftime in Namibia’s opening match against Morocco, while Nakuta could be called into action to stabilize the Warriors’ fragile rear guard.
Though Schans was cagey about the inevitable changes, the Dutch coach minced no words and expressed disappointment with the manner in which the team defended, which he simply referred to as “school-boy errors”.
And whilst Schans put the blame for Namibia’s lucklustre performance squarely on the shoulders of his troops, his repertoire of football knowledge leaves a lot to be desired and one fails to digest the rationale for packing the midfield to rafters with players of similar playing style.
Playing with a lone striker and poking in long balls against the towering Moroccan defenders failed to yield any positives and the coach appeared to run out of Plan B if there was any.
In midfield, Namibia huffed and puffed like headless chickens and the ever-present Oliver Risser was made to run his lungs out with Collin Benjamin showing touches of brilliance in patches, while Quinton Jacobs was completely out of touch by his own standards.
Lazarus Kaimbi was like a blind man in a dark room with the usual goal-poacher deployed at right back to face the wrath of skilful winger Tarif Sektioui who exchanged positions at will with fellow team mate Youssef Hadji as the Moroccan pair took turns to torment both Kaimbi and April on the wings.
Kaimbi and April are unlikely to start in today’s decisive Group A match against the Black Stars with their places likely to be filled by Toromba and Plaatjies respectively – a change that could give the Nambians some glimmer of hope in their quest to upset the bookmakers by stopping the Black Stars in their tracks.
It will be a tall order for the Warriors to redeem themselves, but anything can happen in football, notably if Cameroon’s showing in their opening match against defending champions Egypt is anything to go by.
The Pharaohs tamed the Indomitable Lions with a runaway 4-2 victory in their opening match to stake a serious challenge for a record 6th continental title.
Zambia got their campaign off to a good start with a comprehensive 3-Nil win over Sudan, while a Frederic Kanoute’s lone strike from the penalty spot saw off lowly Benin in an otherwise evenly balanced encounter.
Elsewhere, tournament favourites Ivory Coast shook off some tough resistance from the Super Eagles of Nigeria to move closer to the coveted continental title which eluded them last time around when the Elephants were pipped at the post by hosts Egypt in the dreaded penalty shootout in Cairo two years ago.
A piece of sheer magic from striker Salomon Kalou separated the two nations when the Chelsea target-man weaved his way past three defenders before he coolly slotted home the game’s only goal in the second half.