Windhoek-Brave Warriors mentor Ricardo Mannetti says his charges will look beyond the dispiriting politics and backbiting currently witnessed in the boardrooms of domestic football and gallantly rise to the occasion when they confront Lesotho this Saturday in the Cosafa Castle Cup. The quarterfinals clash takes place at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
Without beating about the bush and as expected, Mannetti yesterday admitted he is not yet impressed with the players’ overall match fitness, especially going into such an important competition like the Cosafa Castle Cup.
Almost 99 percent of Namibia’s home-based players have not kicked a ball for almost more than a year now, due to the dormancy of the domestic football premier league – a scenario sadly brought about by the absurd politics and infighting amongst local administrators.
As a result, Mannetti was left with limited options in terms of selection and thus had to heavily rely on the pool of foreign-based players to come up with a competitive squad for this year’s Cosafa Cup.
During the squad build-up Mannetti and his technical staff had to deal with physically rigid and mentally drained players and worked around the clock to jump-start their fitness levels, as well as attend to their mental alertness.
But after weeks of intensive training and conditioning, the 2015 Cosafa Cup winning mentor was yesterday partly pleased with the players’ overall physical fitness levels, despite a few worries around their match fitness. But be that as it may, Mannetti says they are ready to compete and will make their presence felt come Saturday.
“Another worrying aspect is the lack of harmony among the players, as our usual combinations are not yet clicking, but I’m confident we will get there with time. I chose to use more or less the same usual squad because it was the only reasonable thing to do, considering our football situation here at home. It does not make sense to call up new local players that are not fully fit and that I also haven’t worked with in the past, so that’s why I chose to stick with the same players that have worked with me in the past because they have a better understanding of our tactics and style of play,” explained Mannetti during yesterday’s presser.
Touching on Saturday’s opponents, Mannetti admitted it will not be an easy assignment negotiating their way past Lesotho, but maintained the Brave Warriors have what it takes to overcome Likuena (the Crocodiles) as Lesotho is affectionately known.
“I know Lesotho very well – they play positive football with a lot of energy. We will have to control those qualities, which I think we are capable of doing. Our aim remains the same, winning the trophy, and in order to do that we will have to beat Lesotho on Saturday and hopefully reach the semifinals and ultimately the final match. But we will take it one match at a time and as of now the Lesotho match is our biggest challenge,” asserted Mannetti, who confirmed they will be without the reliable services of defender Dudes Mwendihanga and striker Benson Shilongo due to club commitments.
Should Namibia progress past Lesotho on Saturday, the Brave Warriors will then face the winner of quarterfinal one between last year’s losing finalists Botswana and Zambia.
In quarterfinal three, defending champions South Africa will face the winner of Group A that comprises Tanzania, Malawi, Angola and Mauritius. Tanzania replaced Comoros who withdrew from the competition due to an assortment of reasons. Swaziland will take on the winner of Group B, which is made up of Seychelles, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The full Cosafa Cup squad is:
Maxilliam Mbaeva, Virgil Vries, Loydt Kazapua, Chris Katjiukua, Ferdinand Karongee, Gerhardt Ananias, Larry Horaeb, Denzil Haoseb, Welwin Hanamub, Tiberius Lombard, Oswaldo Xamseb, Dynamo Fredericks, Wangu Gome, Petrus Shitembi, Absalom Iimbondi, Hendrick Somaeb, Benjamin Nenkavu, Ronald Ketjijere (C), Deon Hotto, Peter Shalulile, Roger Katjiteo and Itamunua Keimuine.