THE Young Warriors will leave directly for the men’s Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations in Mauritania on Saturday after a few last-minute pre-tournaments failed to materialise.
On Monday, Tanzania’s IPPmedia reported on its website, ippmedia.com, that Namibia and Uganda would join Tanzania in Dar es Salaam to play several warm-up matches between 1 and 10 February, ahead of the u20 Afcon finals that kick off in Mauritania on 15 February and will continue till 4 March.
The secretary general of the Namibia Football Association, Franco Cosmos, however, said the report was inaccurate and that Namibia would instead fly directly to Mauritania.
“An agent invited us to participate in a tournament in Dar es Salaam, but then another agent set up a tournament in Morocco, and Uganda and Tanzania decided to rather go there, so the Tanzanian tournament fell through.
“We were also invited to the Morocco tournament, but there we would have had to play against Burkina Faso, who will be our first round opponents in Mauritania. So, we didn’t want to go there and show them our playing style.
“Besides, we also got an all-expenses paid invitation to play a friendly against Tunisia in Tunis, but we turned that down for the same reason because they are our opponents in Mauritania. We can’t just go and show them our playing style; we need to keep the element of surprise,” he said.
Cosmos said the team will now leave for Mauritania on Saturday morning, and hoped they can fit in a friendly match or two before the tournament starts.
“We will leave early on Saturday via Ethiopia and will arrive in Mauritania on Sunday. When we are there, we will see which other teams have arrived early and will then try and organise a friendly or two,” he said.
On Sunday, Namibia u20 played the senior national team that recently returned from the Chan tournament in Cameroon and gave a fine performance as they won the match 2-1.
Edmar Kamatuka and Prins Tjiueza scored for the u20s while Wendell Rudath replied for the senior team.
The team’s injury concerns also seem to be over and coach James Britz expressed satisfaction with the team’s progress.
“I’m very happy with my squad, the fitness levels are good, and we are just lacking a bit in match fitness. Most of our injury concerns are now also over, and I’m sure we will have a full-strength team at our disposal,” he said.
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“We have a good team, and making our first appearance [at the competition] as a country, the boys will surely plan to impress and leave a mark on the continent,” said an optimistic Britz, who led the Young Warriors to second-place at last year’s Cosafa u20 Championship in South Africa to secure their Afcon spot.
Namibia share Group B with Tunisia, Central Africa Republic (CAR) and Burkina Faso.
“We face two other debutants in Tunisia and CAR and so it will be equal footing. We have not faced then before and that makes it interesting to play them. We will plan for each of them accordingly and anything is possible,” Britz said.
The Young Warriors begin their campaign against CAR, before facing Tunisia and then Burkina Faso.
Britz will announce his travelling party on Thursday morning.
This will be the first edition u20 Afcon to have expanded to 12 teams instead of eight. The top four teams of the tournament would have normally qualified for the 2021 Fifa U-20 World Cup in Indonesia as the CAF representatives.
However, Fifa decided to cancel the tournament on 24 December 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic.