Warriors lay siege to Elephants’ fortress

Absalom Iimbondi in action for Namibia. File photo

The Brave Warriors are looking to get their 2026 Fifa World Cup Qualifying campaign off to a positive start against Equatorial Guinea at the Nuevo Estadio de Malabo in Malabo today.

In so doing, it would mark a welcome upturn in fortunes for Collin Benjamin’s side who are winless in five outings.

It will also end The Elephants’ nearly two-year unbeaten home run.

The hosts are yet to taste defeat in seven consecutive matches dating back to September 2022.

Both teams head into today’s clash on the back of a pair of stalemates each but Equatorial Guinea are favourites given they are at full-strength and enjoy a superior Fifa ranking, which is 23 places better off than Namibia.

The absence of talismanic captain Peter Shalilule and several other notable injury enforced withdrawals markedly weakens the visiting Warriors.

Returning to action after five matches on the sidelines, Shalulile was on target as Mamelodi Sundowns beat Wydad Casablanca 2-0 to capture the inaugural African Football League title on Sunday.

Nonetheless, Benjamin believes the squad has sufficient cover to help breach the hosts seemingly impenetrable fortress.

“The last communication we got from his club is that Peter is injured. We all know that Peter is a player with great quality, he shows it with his team at the highest level in Africa,” Benjamin said ruefully.

“But also at the same time, there’s an opportunity on the day for whoever is on the field to put up his hand and say ‘coach I’m here, I can do the job’.”

Benjamin will look to compensate for Shalulile’s absence by deploying one of Elmo Kambindu, Prins Tjiueza, Junior Petrus and Muzeu Muzeu or a combination of two of those options in attack.

Today’s contest is the first of two competitive matches for Namibia before they begin their 2023 Africa Cup of Nations campaign.

The Brave Warriors face São Tomé and Príncipe in Agadir, Morocco next week.

“These games are also to a certain extent a window for us as a technical team and the players to showcase that we’re ready for Afcon or can add value to the final squad at Afcon,” Benjamin said.

“So, there are a few options and it’s for the boys to take their chance. I’m looking forward to this match and I’m sure the boys will deliver within their own capabilities.”

Benjamin only had yesterday to work with the full squad but is confident that his charges will be in-sync and rise to the occasion in front of what is expected to be a hostile full-house inside the 2015 Afcon venue.

“You actually want to have players at least for a longer period so you can fine-tune, especially the tactics,” Benjamin noted.

“But nonetheless, I think our boys are professional enough. They understand the assignment, so we’re confident. It’s not something new, so the boys will understand it. Come Wednesday, I think we should be in a good phase.”

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