Egypt is calling

26 March 2019 | Columns

After initially starting off as underdogs in Group K, the Brave Warriors defied all odds to qualify for their third African Cup of Nations finals, even though they had to rely on a spirited Guinea-Bissau side to draw against Mozambique, who for a moment looked set on qualifying for the Egypt-hosted championship.

Zambia's 4-1 thrashing of Namibia in Lusaka on Saturday evening proved irrelevant at the end of the day, as the Brave Warriors finished the group tied on eight points with Mozambique, but with a superior head-to-head record against their regional rivals. Namibia's qualification came against the backdrop of infighting among football administrators - a situation which forced Fifa to step in and appoint a normalisation committee to oversee the country's football affairs in the interim.

It has not been smooth sailing for local football over the past two years and credit must go to the technical team and players for not allowing football politics to get in their way.

Brave Warriors mentor Ricardo Mannetti also deserves a special mention for keeping the core of the team together that won the Cosafa Cup in 2015, as well as for ensuring qualification for last year's African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament, which saw them winning two group matches, drawing one and suffering a quarterfinal loss to Morocco. Certainly the icing on the cake, as far as Mannetti's coaching record is concerned, has been added; and the biggest challenge right now is for the players to represent their nation with pride at the continental showpiece.

There is a massive weight of expectation on the Brave Warriors to do well this time around, and we sincerely hope that the authorities will do everything possible to ensure there are no substandard preparations ahead of the June tournament. Equally, Mannetti and his technical team must focus on improving a number of aspects that have been found wanting in the current squad, in order to have a formidable side capable of competing with the best in Africa.