‘Ugly’ Warriors march towards glory

Ivan Kamberipa in action for Namibia against Lesotho. File photo

The Brave Warriors’ run to the 2024 Cosafa Cup semi-finals was not pleasing on the eye, but getting to play two more matches that will provide exposure for the largely novice side more than makes up for it, says coach Collin Benjamin.

His charges secured a semi-final date with Mozambique inside the picturesque Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha, South Africa today following Wednesday’s 3-1 win over Seychelles to finish as the best second-placed team in the pool phase.

Group C winner Angola beat Lesotho by the same scoreline in the simultaneous kick off to finish on seven points and top on goal difference.

The other last four clash, which kicks off first, pits the impressive Comoros against Angola, who shared a goalless stalemate with Namibia to begin their campaign last week.

Man of the match Bethuel Muzeu bagged two goals, the first and third for Namibia, while fellow forward Erastus Kulula was also on target for the Brave Warriors.

But a goal three minutes from the end by Seychelles’ Brandon Labrosse changed the complexion of the pool and dropped Namibia from first place to second on goals scored.

Nonetheless, Namibia are guaranteed two more matches this weekend, which affords Benjamin the opportunity to impart his philosophy onto the second-string Brave Warriors.

Their tournament will either conclude with Sunday’s decider or the bronze medal play-off earlier the same day.

Benjamin says the Brave Warriors are using the southern African showpiece competition to blood new players and build depth to aid their Fifa World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaigns.

At this point, winning the Cosafa Cup for only the second time in Namibia’s history will be seen as a bonus.

“I hoped for two more games for us, for our young boys to develop, to have good playing time at this level,” says Benjamin, who led Namibia to the silver medal two editions ago.

“In the end, we got them. It’s about capacity building and widening the scope of the Brave Warriors so that we have more players who can compete at this level.”

Wednesday’s dominant display allowed the technical team to give more of the team a run out, with coaching staff impressed by their contribution.

“I think all of them, they need game time. That’s also why we have this tournament or what we said we’re going to use this tournament for,” Benjamin says.

“They all got a little bit of game time and we’re happy. Of course there’s always positives or there’s always negatives.”

By his own admission, Benjamin is aware that the Brave Warriors have been effective in crucial moments of contests rather than aesthetically pleasing so far, that much was evident against Seychelles.

However, he has seen sporadic signs that his side are moving towards a more rounded game, a quality which will come through extended exposure to the rigours of international football.

“I think, to be honest, it wasn’t such a beautiful game. But then again, sometimes you have these games, it doesn’t always have to be beautiful,” Benjamin said when analysing his team’s play.

“As long as you get the result, that’s tournament soccer, that’s wanting to progress to the next round. And we’re just going to take it from there,” he continued.

“It’s good that they got this feeling of being pushed, of playing against a physical team like Seychelles. So, it’s just for them to build on from these few minutes that they got.”

To that end, Benjamin would have welcomed Muzeu’s remarks about winning the man of the match prize and team synergy.

As one of the experienced heads in the group, the in-demand forward has been the driving force of the team in the tournament where he is the joint top scorer with three goals so far.

“It’s not about individuals, it’s about teamwork, and if they have our back, then we are grateful. I got the man of the match prize and I’m happy that they are happy for me,” Muzeu says.

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