COVID-19 has inadvertently aided the Brave Warriors’ Africa Cup of Nations finals qualification ambitions by weakening rivals Guinea.
The Syli Nationale will be without several of their key players, including Liverpool star Naby Keita, when they face the Warriors in their Afcon eliminator in Windhoek on Sunday, 28 March.
Liverpool exercised its right to prevent Keita from travelling to Namibia for Guinea’s final African Cup of Nations qualifier.
Similarly, none of Guinea’s sizeable France-based legion will be allowed to play in Namibia as Ligue 1 and 2 clubs blocked the selection foreign players for matches outside the European Union/European Economic zone during the March international period.
A large number of African countries have their top stars plying their trade in France and Wednesday’s memo comes as a disappointment ahead of the final qualifying fixtures for the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.
Fifa recently confirmed that clubs will not have to release players for national team duty if it meant teams would be without them due to Covid-19 protocols. The UK government restrictions state that any player who represents their national side in countries that feature on the travel red list would have to quarantine for 10 days upon their return.
Were Keita to travel to Namibia, he would be ruled out for injury-ravaged Liverpool’s English Premier League clash against Arsenal on 4 April and the Uefa Champions League quarter-final first leg three days later. Keita is, however, still eligible to play in his national side’s home qualifier against already qualified Mali three days prior.
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In contrast, Namibia only have Ryan Nyambe of English Championship side Blackburn Rovers unavailable due to Covid-19 travel obstructions at the moment.
Brave Warriors head coach Bobby Samaria will be hoping the same fate does not befall Manfred Starke (Germany) and Wangu Gome (Armenia) ahead of the crucial clash.
Should Guinea get a win at home to Mali, Namibia will be eliminated.
Namibia need to beat Guinea to qualify for the finals in Cameroon. The Warriors were handed a three-point lifeline following Chad’s expulsion from the qualifiers.
Chad, whose national federation was disbanded by the government, were due to host Namibia in N’Djamena on 24 March before travelling to face Mali in Bamako on 28 March.
Already qualified Mali were also awarded three points to tally 13. This leaves Guinea (8) and Namibia (6) to fight for the second qualifier from Group A.