MOZAMBIQUE will take on South Africa, while eSwatini will face Senegal in todays semifinals at the Cosafa Cup after a dramatic day of final group matches on Wednesday.
Namibia seemed well set to reach the semifinals after starting the day on top of the log in Group B, on seven points, followed by Senegal on six and Mozambique on four points.
A string of late goals and the tournament rules, however, conspired to deliver a nasty blow to the Brave Warriors’ hopes.
A goal nine minutes from time by Melque Melito gave Mozambique a 1-0 victory against Namibia, which saw them joining the Brave Warriors on seven points, and when Abu Diop scored an injury time winner for Senegal against Malawi, the Teranga Lions went to the top of the log on nine points.
That left Namibia and Mozambique battling it out for the second semifinal spot in Group B, and with the tournament rules determining that head-to-head results will come into effect when teams are tied, Mozambique pipped Namibia to second spot due to their 1-0 victory against the Brave Warriors.
It was a cruel blow for Namibia, who had started the tournament in great style with consecutive 2-0 victories against Senegal and Zimbabwe. They were held to a 1-1 draw by Malawi in their third match, but were still on top of the log and seemed set to make the semis until that cruel, final twist of fate on Wednesday afternoon.
Namibia’s assistant coach Robert Nauseb could not hide his disappointment at the post match press conference, and blamed the referee for some questionable decisions.
“Obviously it was questionable officiating by the referee, and that’s the only thing I can say. When you only give yellow cards to one team its very questionable. You get fouls in the box and theres no free-kick given, there were off the ball incidents, and elbows, but no yellow cards given to the opponents, so those were questionable decisions from the ref,” he said.
“We prepared our team well and came here to compete and we showed that we can compete,” he added.
Senegal will now take on eSwatini in the first semifinal at 14h00 today, while South Africa will face Mozambique in the second semi at 17h00.
In Group A matches on Wednesday, South Africa played to a goalless draw against the defending champions Zambia, who failed to progress past the group stages this time.
Eswatini and Botswana played to a 1-1 draw in the other match in the pool, which ensured the former would advance to the semifinals.
A win would have taken Botswana through, but in the end they had to come from behind as Sabelo Ndzinisa put Eswatini ahead in the first half, only for Thatayaone Kgamanyane to equalise with his third goal of the competition.
That saw South Africa finishing on top of the group on 10 points, while eSwatini grabbed second position on seven points, ahead of Zambia and Botswana who both finished on four points.
Despite Namibia’s early exit they will draw hope from some fine early results, while several players also staked their claims with some fine performances.
On top of the list was striker Elmo Kambindu who was superb, winning two man of the match awards, while he also finished as the joint top scorer at the end of the group stages with three goals.
Others who impressed included captain Willy Stephanus, goalie Lloydt Kazapua, defenders Ananias Gebhardt and Aprocius Petrus, and midfielders Absalom Iimbondi and Marcell Papama.
With Namibia’s World Cup qualifiers now lying in store against Togo, Senegal and Congo from September to November this year, and with the return of international stars who were not available for the Cosafa Cup like Peter Shalulile, Deon Hotto, Petrus Shitembi, Ryan Nyambe, Tiberius Lombard and Manfred Starke, Namibia will now have added depth and a healthy competition for places.