Warriors Succumb to Pressure

Brave Warriors coach Ricardo Mannetti was uncompromising in his assessment of Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Congo-Brazzaville, saying the hosts were the better side and deserved to progress to the next phase of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification.

Not even the taste of Moroccan cuisine at their base in Point-Noire could inspire the Warriors to victory and move closer to a coveted spot at African football’s showpiece event, which will be held next year between January and February in the north-African country (Morocco).

A downcast Mannetti gave a rueful dressing down of his team’s performance at the sold-out Complexe Sportif de Pointe-Noire.

Namibia were arguably the best side on the pitch for the opening 40 minutes until their defensive frailties resurfaced when a breakdown in communication between centre-backs Dacosta Angula, Willem Mwedihanga and keeper Virgil Vries allowed striker Gavoula to steal in between them and toe-poke home for the opening goal after 40 minutes.

“I’ll be very honest with you. Congo was superior today. Better. They were faster, smarter, they outplayed us. We were outplayed today,” Mannetti told The Namibian Sport.

“There were times today when I could not even recognise my own team.

“I could not believe that this is the same team that I’ve worked with for the past year and a fortnight ago I witnessed them overpowering Congo.

“I think the noise from the fans and the occasion was overwhelming. We did not have enough mental strength to weather the storm,” he added.

Before falling behind, Namibia showed good organisation and an unusual arrogance on the ball, much to the displeasure of Congo coach Claude Leroy and the vociferous home-support.

The link-up play between playmaker Petrus Shitembi and forwards Willy Stephanus, Rudolph Bester and Hendrik Somaeb was particularly fluid and resulted in several goalscoring opportunities, which were not converted.

Bester twice beat his marker for pace and trickery just outside the penalty area but saw his hard and low drives both scrambled to safety by Congolese keeper Massa Chancel.

Somaeb, getting a rare start, then squandered Namibia’s best chance of getting an away goal when he shot tamely at Chancel’s legs after racing onto a defense splitting pass from Stephanus on 30 minutes.

“We worked very hard on a specific tactic. We wanted to use our speed to unlock Congo and everything was working out fine for us. We got four chances for that matter. I’m very sorry to say football is a harsh game. At this level if you don’t put any of your chances away, then you will be punished and that is exactly what happened. After that the team collapsed. We couldn’t pick ourselves up,” said Mannetti, who animatedly barked instructions to his players throughout the match.

Black Point

With an appreciating home audience in tow, the Congolose went into halftime on the ascendence, while the day was beginning to darken for the visitors.

A headed second goal for the hosts by the gangly but impressive Fode Dore a minute after the restart all but ended the match as a contest, before substitute Douniama Ladislas put the outcome beyond doubt on 74 minutes with a thumping left-footed finish into the roof of the net.

According to Mannetti, the first half blunder in defense was the primary catalyst for what ensued in the second half,when his charges ran out of steam and were overrun.

“The first goal was a giveaway goal once again. From there it was terrible for the team. They could not believe their eyes. It was always gonna be an uphill battle from there,” Mannetti said. “We were not g enough. Some of our players were being pushed of the ball very easily. The Congolese used their physique very well.”

While admitting that the sweltering humidity was a factor in the team’s spectacular decline during the second-half of the high-tempo match, Mannetti said overall, his team failed to rise to the occasion.

“The players have to learn to manage and be g enough to play in these conditions whether it’s extremely hot or the noisy fans who scream for the entire 90 minutes. We Namibians need to get used to it otherwise we are not going to get anywhere,” he said.

Limited alternatives

The coach also lamented the Brave Warriors’ lack of depth, compounded by the non-availability of key players for the trip to west-Africa.

Thailand-based attacking duo of Tangeni Shipahu and Lazarus Kaimbi did not make the team because of visa complications and club commitments respectively, while veteran striker Henrico Botes and the versatile Deon Hotto, who both play in the South African Premiership, are recovering from injuries.

In the end, Mannetti was forced to hand promising 20 year-old Civics midfielder Wangu Gome his international debut in the second-half, given his limited options on the bench.

“I’m not gonna use it as an excuse but the fact is whenever we play in Africa, we need to have all our best players available in order to be competitive. We don’t have the luxury in Namibian football to replace these players over night. Our options were really cut today. It really made the trip a bit more difficult for us,” said Mannetti.

To add to the Warriors’ woes, they greatly missed the energy of combative captain Ronald Ketjijere, who limped off soon after halftime due to an ankle injury sustained in the sixth minute following a coming together with Namibia’s tormentor-in-chief on the day Fode Dore.

“It was a big, big blow. He’s a soldier. He really tried his best to push up to halftime but it was not working. Everyone knows that the captain is a rock for us in midfield and when he left at two nil down it was just so easy for Congo. It so difficult for the [rest of the] players because they look up to him for direction and confidence,” he said.

Source : The Namibian