THE Brave Warriors have no time to mull over spilt milk, says head coach Bobby Samaria after his side made life difficult for themselves at the 2021 Cosafa Cup yesterday, following an erratic 1-1 result against Malawi’s fired-up Flames yesterday.
The disjointed Brave Warriors’ display against a determined Malawi is in stark contrast to when they recorded impressive victories over Senegal and Zimbabwe to be on the verge of a semi-final berth.
Perhaps the swirling wind and damp conditions at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium at Gqeberha hampered their efforts.
“It feels as if we have lost, because we wanted to maintain our winning streak; it was not to be,” said disappointed Brave Warriors coach Bobby Samaria.
After a lethargic first 45 minutes, Namibia looked destined for the semis once leading marksman Elmo Kambindu broke the deadlock.
He volleyed Namibia ahead after 53 minutes with a classic target man strike. With his back to goal around the penalty spot, Kambindu controlled a driven cross from captain Willy Stephanus with his chest, swivelled and hit the ball with his left foot into the bottom corner.
It was his third of the tournament.
However, failure to add to the lead meant Malawi, who play Senegal today, were always in the contest.
They got the equaliser on 74 minutes when man-of-the-match Miciam Mhone crashed in a close-range shot past Lloyd Kazapua in a goal for Namibia.
The result transformed what appeared to be routine route to the last four into a nail-biting three-way tussle to remain in the competition after Senegal beat Zimbabwe 2-1 in Group B’s other match.
Namibia are still top the pool with seven points accrued from three matches, but now must avoid defeat against Mozambique today to advance to Friday’s semi-finals.
The Mambas, who enjoyed a day off, have four points on the board, and can go from third to top of the pile with a victory.
Senegal’s second-placed youthful Teranga Lions, who eliminated Zimbabwe from the tournament with a 2-1 win yesterday, complete the three-way battle for the two coveted qualification spots.
The West African guest nation has six points, with Zimbabwe and Malawi on two a piece.
“We failed to convert the chances that we created in the game. We could have sealed it, but we did not,” Samaria said.
“For us, it was important not to lose. So, we are now on seven points with a match to play tomorrow. I think we have a very good chance of progressing to the next round, and that was the aim from the beginning.”
A draw is perhaps a fair outcome of an encounter that lacked rhythm and cohesion from both sides.
The Brave Warriors, who had five players yellow-carded against none of their rivals, looked like a side who are struggling to handle the taxing and tight schedule, having played three games in seven days.
That was apparent as head coach Bobby Samaria hauled off some of his ineffective regulars at the break in a triple substitution.
Off came right back Ivan Kamberipa, holding midfielder Wesley Katjiteo and striker Monis Omseb, with Larry Horaeb, Junias Theofilus and Obrey Amseb taking their place.
The changes worked as Warriors were rewarded for their pressure when Kambindu scored. But they dropped off that tempo, and after Malawi had fired a couple of warnings at Kazapua, the hard-running Mhone struck to earn a share of the spoils for the Flames.
Samaria hinted at a need for reshuffling his pack for today’s crunch meeting against the side which Namibia beat in the 2015 final.
“We need to ensure that our recovery plan must work. We have ample depth in the team. So, it’s for myself and my technical team to sit around the table this evening and decide how to bring fresh legs in tomorrow,” he said.
In Group A, Victor Letsoalo became just the second player in South African football history to score an international hat-trick as his treble in a 4-0 win over Lesotho sealed top spot and semi-final qualification.
Zambia kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the semifinals as they defeated Botswana 2-1, with Justin Shonga bagging a brace for them to take his tally for the tournament to three. Thatayaone Kgamanyane netted for The Zebras.
Meanwhile, the competition’s organisers assured participating nations and their followers that that there is no threat to the tournament amid a unrest in the country.
“There are currently no incidents like those experienced in Johannesburg and KwaZulu-Natal in the last few days. As such, there is nothing to be concerned about in Nelson Mandela Bay at the moment,” Cosafa said on its website yesterday evening.