Novice Namibia crumble under pressure 

Khaled Walid Abbas of Egypt tackled by Usurua Riya of Namibia during the 2024 CAF Futsal Africa Cup of Nations Afcon match between Egypt and Namibia at the Prince Moulay Abdellah Complex in Rabat, Morocco on 14 April 2024. BackpagePix

Namibia’s debut Futsal Africa Cup of Nations campaign went from bad to worse in Rabat, Morocco, after suffering a damaging 10-3 defeat to record champions Egypt on Sunday.

The mauling follows Friday’s 5-4 loss to fellow debutantes Mauritania, leaving Namibia rooted to bottom of group B and on the verge of elimination from the continental competition.

It leaves the Brave Five needing a high-scoring victory against Libya in their final group match today to maintain their feint hopes of reaching the knockout stage.

Libya are second, level on three points with Mauritania, behind the Egyptians who will look to make it three wins from three matches when they take on the Mauritanians.

Unlike when they started sluggishly and fell 4-0 behind to Mauritania by half-time, the Brave Five were stubborn against the three-time champions inside a sparsely populated Prince Moulay Abdellah Hall on Sunday evening.

The score was 3-2 at the break before the wheels came off for Namibia in the second stanza.

“During the first half we matched the team that is ranked top 30 in the world. I’m extremely proud, but yet again we performed well for one half and not for the second in both games.

“We needed to start performing at that high level for 40 minutes. Unfortunately, it’s a hard lesson to take,” Namibia’s head coach, Ryan Jago, says.

“I said to the boys we’re not going to say too much at the moment. We need time to reflect on our own performance. We’ve all made mistakes, myself and the players. We crumbled in the second half unfortunately,” he says.

“During the first half I thought we played unbelievably and stuck to the game plan. We could have been a bit more clinical and should have gone into half-time winning.”

However, placed into context, the match against Egypt was only Namibia’s fourth ever futsal international and the disparities between the two nations’ levels were glaring.

Both coaches alluded to that fact in the post-match review.

“The result was very good for us, but we didn’t play well in the first half. Namibia are newcomers in the tournament and they don’t play with tactics, but in the first half we were not very good in our play, and that made me angry,” said Egypt’s coach, Gehad Arafa.

Jago lamented the outcome of the match after his side’s heroic first-half performance.

He was self-critical for getting some of the substitutions wrong, which exacerbated an already dire situation.

“I think it’s a hard lesson. I think the fitness levels showed . . . There were mistakes left, right and centre from the players and myself.

“I felt I needed to make changes, and some of those weren’t right. So, I take responsibility and the players as well,” Jago said.

“In the second half, we were still confident – even if at 3-2 down. I felt the game was ours for the taking. We couldn’t carry on the way we were going. “

Progression to the next round looks unlikely, but the onus is on his charges to improve their goal difference by comprehensively beating Libya and hoping Egypt beat Mauritania in similar fashion.

“We’ll try and dust ourselves off and go again. Obviously, we now have to rely a lot on other results going our way. There’s a very minimal chance of us going through.

“However, there is still a slight bit of hope, so we have to keep going. It’s our first time in a major tournament, and we have to learn from it,” Jago said.

Arafa said there are no easy teams in the tournament despite the Pharaohs’ emphatic result over Namibia.

“When you play to win championships, you have to respect every team and play to the best of your abilities.

“We were able to correct our mistakes, and in the second half we were concentrated and changed our style, and it worked out well with a good result.”

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