By Carlos Kambaekwa
Namibia’s senior football team, the Brave Warriors return to their happy hunting grounds when they take on Guinea in their group two of the combined FIFA 2010 World Cup Africa Zone and CAF African Cup of Nations Preliminaries at Windhoek’s Independence Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
The Warriors opened their assault in the marathon tournament with a morale boosting win over Kenya’s Harambee Stars in Windhoek a fortnight ago, but the fired-up Warriors were brought down to earth by Zimbabwe in their next match at the artificial Rufaro turf in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, last weekend.
However, Coach Arie Schans is confident his charges have what it takes to dust themselves off and put behind them the disappointment of losing against Zimbabwe with another gutsy performance in front of their own supporters.
“We did not lose against Zimbabwe because they were a better team than us – it was just a lack of concentration that cost us the game especially the first goal where our goalkeeper Athiel Mbaha made a terrible blunder.”
Schans says the boys know very well the importance of tomorrow’s result and have promised to go flat out and collect maximum points against the winless Syli Nationale of Guinea.
The two teams played out a 1-all draw in a meaningless African Cup of Nations finals group match in Ghana earlier this year after both teams had already been eliminated from the continental showpiece in the group stages.
Schans is likely to ring changes to the starting lineup that lost against Zimbabwe last weekend with captain fantastic Michael “Dolam Tower” Pienaar returning to the lineup after missing last weekend’s match because of work commitment.
First choice goalkeeper Mbaha is a definite non-starter after suffering a groin injury and his place is likely to be taken by Civics’ veteran net minder Esau “Pitso” Tjiuoro, with young African Stars’ goalkeeper Maxmillian Mbaeva deputizing.
The discarded striking pair of Lazarus “Tommy” Kaimbi and Rudolph Bester has been recalled while Oshikandela Ramblers’ hot striker Pineas Jacob has been sent home to nurse a knee injury he picked up during Ramblers’ mid-week 1-all draw against Black Africa.
Collin Benjamin is still out with a nagging toe injury and is unlikely to feature in any of the preliminaries.
Schans says his team will be counting heavily on home ground advantage and urged patriotic Namibians to rally behind the team.
“We know it’s not going to be easy against Guinea because they also need to win to stay in contention since another defeat would all but signal the end of their journey in these qualifiers, but we’ve studied video material of their games against Zimbabwe and Kenya respectively and know what to expect.”
The Dutch national added that Namibia must win all their home games if they are to stand any chance of making an impression in the marathon tournament.
“The fact that we will be playing Guinea again in the second round within a space of seven days after tomorrow’s match makes things very difficult for us but we need to stay focused and maintain discipline and from what I’ve seen at training this week, the boys are certainly raring to go.”
In Pascale Feindinou, Guinea has a player who possesses the ability to win games with one moment of brilliance and the Warriors can consider themselves lucky that the Saint Ettiene schemer did not feature the last time the two teams met because of suspension.
The Warriors will depart for Johannesburg on Sunday en route to Conakry and the team is expected to wrap up its preparations with a warm-up match against a South African Development side during its 3-day training camp in Johannesburg, before jetting out to the West African country.
Another Milestone for Namibian Football
Meanwhile, former local referee and seasoned football administrator Frans “Killa” Samaria has been appointed Match Commissioner for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Preliminary between Swaziland and Zambia at the Somhlolo Stadium in Mbabane on Sunday.
The referee and his two assistants as well as the fourth officials are all from Ghana while Frank Valdemarca of Zimbabwe will be the Referee Assessor.