Namibia found itself marooned with the wooden spoon in Group K of the 2017 Afcon qualifiers after going down
2-0 against Senegal in Windhoek on Saturday.
Playing in front of a voiciferous crowd at near capacity strength at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, the Namibian
part-timers put up a brilliant second half display. However, they failed to find the target as they were always
found wanting in the final quarter by the resolute defence of the towering Senegalese rearguard.
It was a contest of two distinct halves with the visitors on top in the opening 45 minutes, while the hosts wrestled the initiative from their more illustrious opponents in the second period. The match was attended by the Namibian Head of State Dr Hage Geingob, who took time off his hectic schedule to cheer on his fellow countrymen.
Enterprising winger Pikes Shalulile proved a constant thorn in the flesh of the Senegalese defence – only to be let down by lack of sufficient bodies in the third quarter. The Lions of Teranga fielded a full-strength squad and at times
had their hosts at sixes and sevens with slick passing – much to the delight of the appreciative crowd.
Both teams created half goal-scoring opportunities in the opening minutes, but were let down by wayward
shooting. Shalulile had a chance to open the scoreboard for the hosts but the speedy winger fluffed his effort
when put clear by New Era’s man of the match Petrus ‘Dancing Shoes’ Shitembi, with a defence-splitting pass.
The hosts were made to rue their near misses when the visitors won the first corner kick of the match on 36 minutes. The ball-watching static Namibian defence allowed the unmarked Senegalese skipper, Cheickou Kouyate, to head home from close range, getting to the end of Lamina Gassama’s flick on.
It was end-to-end stuff and pocket-size midfielder Wangu Gome- Batista, who otherwise had a quiet game by his own standards, should have registered Namibia’s first goal when he left his marker for dead, but the diminutive playmaker unselfishly tried to cut the ball back instead of passing into the begging net on the far post, albeit from a tight angle.
Soon afterwards, Senegal laid siege and had the Namibian rearguard in all sorts of trouble but that oak door
of the Namibian defence held on for dear life – leaving Warriors mentor Bucksy Mannetti to heave a huge sigh
of relief going into the changeover, with just a goal in arrears.
Following a thorough tonguelashing by the furious Mannetti, the rejuvenated Warriors entered the field a totally different team in the second half, raising the fading hopes of thousands of spectators as they started to open up and show more attacking intent.
Just as the hosts appeared to be levelling matters, English Premiership outfit Southampton striker Sadio Mane collected a loose ball after some sluggish defending, and let fly with a long-range harmless-looking shot from outside
the penalty box – only for the ball to roll under the diving frame of Virgil Vries, who was well positioned
to avert the danger with 34 minutes remaining.
Sensing defeat, Mannetti hauled off the ineffective midfielder Heini Isaacks, unleashing speedy winger Awilo Stephanus. The move almost paid immediate dividends, as Namibia started to pay frequent visits into the
visitors’ danger zone. Free State Stars striker Ballack Somaeb also entered the fray and the two substitutes brought a new dimension into the hosts’ style of play, as they troubled the Senegalase defence with their speed.
Shalulile missed a sitter, heading wide when it was easy to score, while the enterprising Shitembi sent a
rebound into the sky from an inviting position. Final score: Namibia 0 – 2 Senegal.
The Warriors are now faced with an insurmountable task as they need to win at least three of their remaining four group matches, and hope other results go their way, to have any mathematical chance of carving themselves a place in Gabon 2017, after having lost their opening match 1-0 to Niger. In the other Group K match, Burundi defeated
Niger by two unanswered goals at home in Bujumbura.