Mannetti against the odds
The Brave Warriors’ head coach, Ricardo Mannetti, has a mammoth task to take the country to the next continental showpiece.
When the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2019 draw to be held in Cameroon was conducted in Gabon for 2019, Mannetti expressed satisfaction with the opposition the country will face.
But let us face it, do the Brave Warriors stand a chance to qualify with all the drama our football is facing? The Land of the Brave is in Group K with neighbours, Zambia; fellow southern African country, Mozambique; and West African minnows, Guinea Bissau.
The group appears easy, without any of the traditional African heavyweights and optimism remains high that Namibia can make a return to the continental epic football league in two years’ time.
Mannetti knows Zambia very well as the two countries faced each other several times, but the record against its neighbour is not on Namibia’s side.
In 2015, the Brave Warriors beat the Chipolopolo 2-1 in the African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifiers just to lose the second leg in Zambia.
Namibia has a good record against Mozambique, coming out on top in their last two meetings.
This is the same opponent Namibia defeated to lift the COSAFA Cup in 2015.
The tricky customer is Guinea Bissau, whom Namibia have never faced before.
Even though Mannetti is optimistic that the chances to qualify are high, the inactive league at home will hamper preparations.
The Brave Warriors will start their qualifying campaign away to Guinea-Bissau in June this year.
They will qualify automatically to the finals, and then CAF will look at the best runners-up to fill up the three vacant spots.
Mannetti made it clear that the team was not ready for the 2017 tournament, but now he has his eyes set on the 2019 continental showpiece.
The draw that looks rather kind on the Brave Warriors might have come at the wrong time for Mannetti as the country is also grappling with deep economic crises.
Namibia Football Association president Frans Mbidi will have none of that.
Mbidi said the inactivity of the local league should not be an excuse since the coach has a pool of players to choose from.
“He will be assisted to assemble the team, because we have a lot of players available for selection. If the team is well prepared then I don’t see why we can’t qualify,” said Mbidi.
When contacted for his view, Mannetti was reluctant to share his thought.
“I don’t want to comment on uncertain things. The only thing I can comment on now is the latest FIFA ranking and the Afcon 2019 draw,” said Mannetti.
For the team to make it to the 2019 tournament, Mannetti will have to rely heavily on the services of foreign-based players. The highest number of foreign-based players is in South Africa, with a few in Europe and Asia.