Lessons to learn for AFCON
07 April 2019 | Columns
There is still a lot that the national senior soccer team needs to learn if they want to be a force to be reckoned with at the upcoming African Cup of Nations (AFCON) taking place in Egypt.
This comes after Namibia successfully qualified for the showpiece alongside Guinea Bissau in group K. Although the Brave Warriors lost 4-1 to Zambia, Guinea Bissau's stoppage time equalizer insured entry for the Brave Warriors as they have a better head-to-head record compared to Mozambique.
However, the humiliating defeat against Zambia raises questions while various issues need to be addressed urgently.
Namibia played most of their qualifiers with their first-choice goalkeeper Virgil Vries and it came as a surprise that coach Ricardo Mannetti did not start with him between the sticks for the game against Zambia in Lusaka.
Some of the goals scored by Zambia could have been avoided if Vries was the goalkeeper. He has proven himself in previous games against Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Zambia, earning him the move to one of the Soweto giants in South Africa, Kaizer Chiefs – although the goalkeeper has not seen much action at “Amakhozi” as he was sidelined because of a few mistakes he made. Still, all goalkeepers make mistakes, even the great ones. So it's always good for a coach to keep his trust in a goalkeeper as that gives him confidence moving forward.
Another thing that must be worked on is the players' mentality. It is key that the players adopt a winning mentality going into 2019 AFCON as the games that they will play will be against top teams and teams that have players who ply their trade in top leagues around the world.
World-class players like Mohammed Salah, Sadio Mane and Alex Iwobi could potentially do battle against Namibia at the competition and local players need to have mental strength to believe that they can beat them despite their superstar tags.
In every match, players make mistakes so that is normal but how you rise from the mistakes is what defines the great from the average players.
Deon Hotto has had a great season at Bidvest Wits so far where he has inspired his team to climb to second place in the ABSA Premiership in South Africa. The player who grew up in Swakopmund is known as the king of assists in the league. Against Zambia he missed a good chance in a gaping goal in the first half – a miss that affected him psychologically. In Egypt we have to be mentally tough and move on from such.
Although Namibia has never won a single match at our two previous appearances at AFCON (1998 and 2008), this year presents a good opportunity to get that first win. The team just needs to be mentally tough and the coach needs to put trust in his players to do the job.