Ricardo Mannetti, coach of Namibia during the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Finals match between Morocco and Namibia. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Namibia’s coach, Ricardo Mannetti moved swiftly to answer a question that wasn’t even directed at him, but was about the Brave Warriors.

The question, posed to Morocco’s Herve Renard, was how far the Frenchman thought Namibia would go at the Africa Cup of Nations. Mannetti was asked to assess the Atlas Lions after the North Africans won Sunday’s between the two team’s 1-0.

“I can answer for the both of us,” Mannetti said. “You can’t come to the Nations Cup after 11 years, you are in the group of death and then you talk about getting out of the group. As far as I am concerned, we will play an important role in deciding who is going to go through. That should be quoted.

We will play that role, and we are happy playing that role. How far will Morocco go? I think that they have a good enough side with a lot of depth. They are a team that can go to the final and even lift this trophy. Leave the talk about Namibia and the second round.”

Chris Katjiukua of Namibia Marcel is challenged by Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco during their #Afcon2019 match. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Namibia are participating at Afcon for the first time since 2008 in a group where they were coincidentally are also drawn with Morocco who thumped them 5-1 in Ghana.

Renard, still making a name for himself on the continent, was Claude le Roy’s assistant at Ghana. Namibia finished bottom of their group in 2008. They could also finish bottom of their group this time around, something that wouldn’t surprise Mannetti.

“We shouldn’t forget that we are in the group of death,” he said. “We are the underdogs. I told you before, I don’t have a problem with the underdog tag. I am so proud of my boys, of the way they executed the tactics.

Yes, sometimes it wasn’t nice to watch, but I came up against an experienced coach. I came up against an experienced team. For us, to have made it to the Afcon is already a success story for Namibia. We are ranked 113, most of our players play in the African continent. We had to play a specific way to make sure that we stand a chance, or get an outside chance. I am very pleased with the performance, yes I am disappointed that we couldn’t steal that point from Morocco but it’s a well-deserved goal for them even though it came from my own player.”

Marcel Papama of Namibia and Hakim Ziyach of Morocco during their #Afcon2019 match at Al-Salaam Stadium in Cairo. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Namibia were very conservative in their play against Morocco, sitting back and looking to frustrate a team that’s regarded by many, including Mannetti, as one of the favourites to win Afcon. But expect a different Namibia when the Brave Warriors take on Bafana Bafana on Friday.

“The South African match will definitely be a different game,” Mannetti said. “It’s a southern Africa derby. There will be a lot of emotions. I can guarantee you that both teams will change how they played in their first matches.

All I can tell you is that it will be an interesting game to watch.”

IOL Sport