Combative Youngsters Please Mannetti

Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti is content with the display of the rookies who featured for Namibia during their 1-1 international friendly draw against Swaziland on Wednesday night.

Mannetti said the friendly match helped him fulfil his primary objective, which was to help the national under-23 side prepare for the All Africa Games and 2016 Olympics qualifiers.

Namibia’s starting 11 featured four U23 players, three of whom – full-backs Peter Shalulile and Tjiuana ua Tjinotjiua, and striker Itamunua Keimune were debutants – with exciting midfielder Wangu Gome earning his second cap.

A fourth debutant, Marius Kotze, replaced Gome, who was arguably Namibia’s best player until he was forced off with a hamstring injury with 15 minutes to go.

Twenty-year-old wingback Benjamin Nenkavu became the fifth Namibian to be capped on Wednesday, when he replaced veteran target man Henrico Botes on 80 minutes.

“This was a very tense game for the young boys. I had 15 under-23s in the 23-man squad that I called up. Some of you guys [reporters] don’t even know the players on the bench and on the field today. So the future looks bright for Namibian football,” Mannetti said after the match.

The secondary objective was to gauge the levels of performance of the Brave Warriors novices against that of the seasoned internationals.

“I knew it was going to be a tough match. If you have about 15 under-23 boys, then here and there they will make mistakes. I was very happy and pleased with the fact that they minimised their mistakes,” said Mannetti.

“From here on, the All Africa Games are there, the Olympic Games are coming up, so this was a good exercise even for the coach [Woody Jacobs] to take the boys from here.

“Overall I’m just happy to see that we put these youngsters in this pressure situation and they did well,” he added.

Namibia were arguably the better side for the opening 60 minutes before being reduced to ten-men following the controversial dismissal of experienced midfielder Lazarus Kaimbi.

Kaimbi, who had been booked in the first half for dissent, was showed a second yellow card by Namibian referee Andreas Helmut, who had adjudged the player to have taken a dive in the box as he was challenged by a Swazi defender.

“I wasn’t happy with the red card. Our plan was to go a goal or two up and then give the other youngsters on the bench a chance. But that [red card] threw all our plans out the window and we had to re-adjust,” he said.

The visitors made the most of their numerical superiority, as incessant pressure on the Namibian defense saw them equalise 10 minutes before the end.

Brave Warriors’ keeper Max Mbaeva failed to deal with a looping cross and midfielder Felix Badenhorst was on hand to pounce as he guided the ball into the net.

Mbaeva, who had very little to do during the match, was almost caught out by Badenhorst just before half-time, when the Swazi player let fly from distance, but good fortune and the crossbar came to the flapping keeper’s aid.

“Obviously ten men versus eleven, with a lot of youngsters in the team, they got the upper hand and we struggled from there,” lamented Mannetti.

Up until Kaimbi’s dismissal, which drew moans of disapproval from the sparse home crowd that rocked up at the Sam Nujoma Stadium, the Brave Warriors dominated possession and conjured up several promising build-ups.

The industrious Gome, crafty Kaimbi and combative captain Ronald Ketjijere linked up well with forwards Botes and Keimuine.

Botes had a header cleared off the line early in the second-half, while Kaimbi had Namibia’s best chance of the opening half when his rasping drive from just outside the box cannoned off the woodwork.

“For me, it was an excellent performance by Henrico Botes. I’m so happy to see him in this form. I thought maybe [he has] one year or two years left. But tonight’s performance showed he is a fighter. He showed me that ‘coach don’t write me off. You should still keep me in your plans’ and I’m very happy for that,” Mannetti said.

Mannetti however regretted Namibia’s missed chances.

“International football looks easy on the eye. But one has to realise that in international football you don’t get a lot of chances and a lot of goals, and you must make use of your chances.”

Deon Hotto also enjoyed a good outing in his comeback match, while Shalulile and Tjinotjiua played like seasoned campaigners at full-back either side of central defenders Chris Katjiukua and Willem Mwedihanga.

Source : The Namibian