Brave Warriors serve notice

The Brave Warriors team that drew 0-0 against Ghana on 8 January 2024. Photo: NFA

The Brave Warriors served notice of their intentions at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations when they held a strong Ghanaian side to a goalless draw in Kumasi on Monday night. 

The Brave Warriors impressed with their tight defence, their strong and direct running, as well as their quick transitions from defence to attack, but not many chances were created. 

Namibian coach Collin Benjamin fielded an experienced team with stalwarts like Peter Shalulile, Deon Hotto and Absalom Imbondi leading the attack, Petrus Shitembi in midfield, and Riaan Hanamub and Ryan Nyambe in defence, although experienced defender Ananias Gebhardt was left out, while Kamaijanda Ndisiro was given the nod, ahead of regular keeper Lloyd Kazapua.

Lubeni Haukongo and Kennedy Amutenya completed the defence, with Aprocious Petrus in midfield and the up-and-coming Prins Tjiueza as an attacking midfielder. 

Ghana missed a few of their experienced players through injury or illness, like West Ham midfielder Mohamed Kudus, Bournemouth striker Antoine Semenyo and Lens midfielder Salis Abdul Sahmed, while coach Chris Hughton revealed that star forward Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao, who did play, had just recovered from illness.

They, however, still fielded a strong side including goalkeeer Richard Ofori of SA club Orlando Pirates, defender Alexander Djiku and midfielder Daniel Amartey who play for Turkish Super League clubs Fenerbahce and Besiktas respectively; and Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew, while his brother, experienced forward Andre Ayew, who now plays for Le Havre, came on as a second half sub. 

Benjamin praised his team’s performance at the post match press conference.

“I think we had a very good test against a very good team, very physical, very tactical with a lot of individual brilliance, but equally, my team had a very good game. They worked as a collective with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of conviction and I’m just proud of the team,” he said. 

“In the first half we created really good chances and we could even have gone 2-0 ahead, but the boys still have to learn, like Prinsie, if he comes to the 16-yard area he has to kill it, these are the lessons that you learn. In the second half Ghana took it even further, but I think we contained them and the two or three chances that we also had, just makes me proud to be the coach of this team,” he added. 

Benjamin said they want to make their country proud. 

“We want to do better than what we did last time, we want to make our nation proud, we don’t want to only play for ourselves, we play because we are Brave Warriors. Nobody is giving us a chance but we are taking our chances and we want to make Namibia proud,” he said. 

“This game tells me that my team has character, my team has will power, my team is hungry and a hungry man is an angry man,” he added. 

Ghana coach Chris Hughton said it was a game of two halves.

“I think what was evident was that we were up against a team with a lot of energy, and they were very direct in the way that they play, with a four-four-two system.  They looked to search the spaces behind and had good runners behind, and then you have to be able to keep the ball well enough. In the first half I thought our ball retention wasn’t good enough which made it difficult for us, and when you are playing a team that is narrow with 4-4-2 and with high energy, then the ball distribution has got to be quicker,” he said. 

“So I didn’t think we were good enough on the ball in the first half – we were  better in the second half, but the game opened up and we were able to capitalise on the spaces, but a lack of quality at times saw us not creating opportunities.”

Hughton, however, gave Namibia credit for a fine performance. 

“I think you have to give Namibia credit, I thought they defended very well at moments, but we had to make more of the possession that we had, particularly the possession we had in the final third,” he said. 

Namibia will now start preparing for Afcon which gets underway on Saturday when the hosts, the Ivory Coast take on Guinea Bissau in Abidjan, while Namibia’s opening match is against Tunisia in Korhogo on Tuesday, 16 January. 

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