No need to press panic buttons yet – Mannetti…still hopeful of 2019 Afcon qualification

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Ricardo Mannetti coach of Namibia celebrates with Wangu Gome of Namibia during the 2016 Cosafa Cup Plate Final match between Zambia and Namibia at Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek Namibia on 24 June, 2016 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Otniel Hembapu

Windhoek-Despite a narrow 1-0 defeat against Guinea-Bissau in their Group K 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification match on Saturday, Brave Warriors mentor Ricardo Mannetti remains optimistic about Namibia’s chances of qualifying and insists there’s no need to press the panic buttons yet.

Guinea-Bissau edged out Namibia 1-0 in the 2019 Afcon qualification Group K match at the Estadio 24 de Setembro in Bissau on Saturday. The victory takes Djurtus – as Guinea-Bissau are affectionately known – to the top of the Group K standings with three points, while the Brave Warriors are fourth with no points.

Djurtus, who were the surprise package during the 2017 Afcon qualifying campaign, broke the deadlock 24 minutes into the match. It was Jerson who hit the back of the net to make it 1-0 to Guinea-Bissau via a well executed free kick.

But despite the slippery start to their Cameroon 2019 Afcon qualifiers, Mannetti remains unshaken and teeming with confidence as he maintains that Namibia’s chances of booking a place at the 2019 Afcon are wide open and considering the substantial time gap between most Afcon qualifying matches, Namibia will in no time be in a better position to start raking in some much needed wins.

Heading to Bissau, Mannetti and his charges were faced with major match fitness issues as most local players haven’t kicked a ball for almost a year due to the dormancy of the domestic flagship football league, while most of the foreign-based players are not accorded adequate game time at their respective clubs.

“The goal was a brilliant free kick. No one is to blame for the result and they held on until the very end. But we played good football as well. Judging from the overall performance of the boys, despite all the challenges of having no premiership football in the country for all these months, I have to say it gives me hope that we can still make it. We should not press panic buttons yet, there is no need,” confidently said Mannetti in a post-match interview with the NFA Media Desk.

Mannetti said the team remained on track for Cameroon 2019 and can change things come next year when the qualifiers resume, further emphasising that the long hiatus before the next qualifiers will also give the team much needed time to make some amends, especially in terms of match fitness and hopefully the domestic league would have started by then.
In other Group K results, Mozambique defeated Zambia 1-0 to go top of the group, followed by Guinea Bissau. Zambia and Namibia are bottom on zero points. Namibia will host Zambia next year in March while Guinea Bissau will visit Mozambique that same weekend in a top two clash.

The team was expected to return home late yesterday with some players to feature in the Debmarine Cup on June 17 after which they will depart for Rustenburg, South Africa for the 2017 Cosafa Cup where they face Lesotho on July 1 in the quarterfinals.

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