‘Rusty’ Warriors ready to silence critics

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Carlos Kambaekwa

Windhoek-With less than three days left before Namibia’s senior football team, the Brave Warriors, launch their assault in the annual Cosafa Cup, head coach Ricardo Mannetti is not having any sleepless nights.

The Warriors return to their fortress at the Maruleng stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa, venue of their historic victory in the same competition exactly two years ago.
The question on many lips is: will history repeat itself if the Warriors’ preparation for the regional tourney is anything to go by.

Despite ongoing inactivity in the domestic topflight football league, Mannetti has turned his attention to the Namibian foreign legion, with only two locally based players making the starting line-up from the Warriors’ last competitive match against Guinea Bissau in the 2019 Afcon qualifier in Bissau earlier this month.

That game, which saw Namibia narrowly losing 1-0, marked their first competitive international match in almost ten months, but Mannetti is quite confident his charges will put their bodies on the line when the Warriors lock horns with regional minnows Lesotho in the quarterfinals of the annual competition on Sunday, July 1.

“In terms of match fitness we are still not where we would have loved to be, but there were good signs from our encounter against Guinea Bissau. In all fairness, our narrow 1-0 defeat was not a true reflection of the match and I still believe a draw would have done justice to the team’s overall performance,” said the former Lightbody Santos holding midfielder.

The Warriors are likely to be without three of their core players as both Dudes Mwedihanga and Benson ‘Styles’ Shilongo are away on duty with their South Africa club Platinum Stars in the CAF club competition.

Meanwhile, a dark cloud also hangs over the availability of Cosmos speedy winger Ballack Somaeb. Word from Football House is that Somaeb fell foul of the South African immigration authorities’ crime sheet after he apparently overstayed his welcome in the rainbow nation.

Nevertheless, Mannetti remains upbeat and believes he has assembled a squad good enough to stage a serious challenge and reclaim the coveted trophy surrendered to South Africa last term.

“The team is fairly well balanced, the boys just need to gel since they have not played together for a long time (almost ten months) but from what I’ve observed in Guinea Bissau the boys have what it takes to compete.” The former Brave Warriors and Civics playmaker also praised the mood and close camaraderie amongst the playing personnel in the camp, unlike last term when the Warriors were badly distracted by off-the-field antics.

“We had a very unfortunate situation last time when two senior players were sent home for breaking the team’s curfew just days before the kick-off to our defence. The pair’s unfortunate departure put a strain on the rest of the squad, while it also derailed our game plan, as we were obliged to reshuffle the pack.”

Only two locally based players were in the Warriors starting line-up against Guinea Bissau in the shape of evergreen captain Stigga Ketjiere and overlapping fullback Larry Horaeb, and Mannetti is unlikely to effect any changes barring injuries or unavailability of certain players.
The squad will be trimmed to a manageable 20 players before flying out to South Africa tomorrow afternoon.

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