Namibia face a return fixture with Cameroon at the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto, South Africa on Tuesday, buoyed by their excellent 1-1 draw in the reverse clash in Yaoundé that has given the Brave Warriors belief they can qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Prolific striker Peter Shalulile scored his 14th international goal to put Namibia ahead in Friday’s game, but Cameroon equalised via an Olivier Kemen header with 18 minutes left on the clock.
That goal for Shalulile took him to the top of the all-time scorers list for Namibia, moving the Mamelodi Sundowns forward past Rudolf Bester, yet another record for a player who simply cannot stop scoring. It is now 20 for club and country this campaign.
Namibia are second in the three-team pool with two points from their opening two games, one ahead of Burundi in third, who have also played two matches.
They will take a massive step towards a fourth continental finals appearance with a win over the Indomitable Lions.
“Our ambition in this competition is just to make it to Afcon and showcase Namibian talent,” said Shalulile. “We have talent, and we also want to be on the (football) map.” Those sentiments have been echoed by Namibia coach Collin Benjamin, who understands all too well the pressures of the game and playing in the big-time after a hugely successful playing career in the German Bundesliga.
“We have a very young and hungry team, one that wants to prove themselves. And to do that you need to play against the best in Africa,” Benjamin said.
“We know Cameroon is one of the top nations in Africa. They were at the World Cup (in Qatar), and we were all as Africans very proud of what they did. Our boys are also very hungry and want to go there (the World Cup) too.
“This is the platform that we need for us boys to show to Africa that Namibia is there and wants to play football.” With the Kenyan federation currently suspended by FIFA, the three-team group gives Namibia an excellent chance of advancing as one of the top two teams. Their final qualifier is away in Burundi, scheduled for June.
“There are three teams in the group and two will go through,” Benjamin said. “Our mission will be to steal points and we want to be with the (best teams) at the Nations Cup next year. To do that you need to challenge the big boys.
“We have the best possible team. The best that we could put together, that has this burning ambition and wants to prove themselves.
“In football there is pressure all the time. We need to give Cameroon a good run for their money. Our strength is as a team collective, then the individual players bring their qualities into the team.”
Namibia have been using South Africa as a base since June 2021 while their home venues in Windhoek are brought up to CAF standard.
Since then they have played four matches in Johannesburg, drawing with Congo and Burundi (both 1-1), and losing to Togo (0-1) and Senegal (1-3).
Namibia last appeared at the Nations Cup finals when they reached the 2019 tournament in Egypt. Their other appearances were in 1998 and 2008.
Credit: COSAFA Media