THE JUNIOR Warriors remain relevant at the Cosafa under-20 Championships following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Malawi at Nelson Mandela Bay yesterday afternoon.
An erratic Namibia, who had to win after going down 1-0 to Zambia in their tournament opener, came from behind to put their first points on the board and revive hopes of reaching the semi-finals.
Lanjesi Nkhoma shrugged off a number of challenges before firing low to put Malawi ahead early in the opening half, but their joy was short-lived as Namibia equalised four minutes later.
Juninho Jantze provided a controlled volley at the back post to level the scores, before man of the match Giovani Kaninab grabbed the winner just before half-time.
“I’m very happy. I’m glad that I scored and we did well to get the points. Our coach said we must put them under pressure and not give them time to play and we did that,” match winner Kaninab said.
Defending champions Zambia took a giant step towards the semis when they defeated Comoros 2-0 in their Group A clash
Zambia head the pool with six points and have not conceded a goal yet, while Namibia and Malawi are on three points each. Comoros are out 0f the running having lost both their opening games.
Only the top team in each pool as well as best-placed runner-up advance to the semi-finals, while the two finalists at this year’s competition qualify for the 2021 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations.
Head coach James Britz was relieved to win but not thrilled with the performance. He was critical of his side’s lack of discipline and failing to carry out instructions.
“It was not a good performance. But the boys fought. We made silly mistakes and allowed Malawi to come at us. We have to do better against Comoros. The most important thing is the three points and we live to fight another day,” Britz said.
“It was not good towards the end. When you work with kids and they don’t do what you tell them, it becomes stressful and we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure.”
His Malawi equivalent Patrick Mabedi also admonished his charges while heaping praise on the Young Warriors.
“They deserved to win. They fought hard and gave more than us. We panicked. The moment you panic, you lose your way. We should have been composed and played according to our game plan. Congratulations to Namibia,” said Mabedi.
In order to make the best runner-up place calculation fair, the results against the bottom teams in Groups A and B will be discarded.
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Both Groups A and C will be decided on Tuesday when the final matches are played.
The Group C action is up first at 12h20 where a point for Eswatini in their clash against Botswana will ensure they finish top of the pool. But a win for the Young Zebras will see all three teams on three points and the pool decided by goal-difference.
Mozambique need to avoid defeat to hosts South Africa to finish top in Group A, but a win for the latter would see them go top and leave the Young Mambas sweating on a best runner-up place.
At the same time Zimbabwe take on Lesotho, with both teams essentially out of the competition as even a win for Zimbabwe would leave them with only a single point in the runner-up calculation.
The same would go for Lesotho when results against the bottom team discarded.