Namibia face must-win clash against mighty Senegal

Namibia will go in search of a desperately needed victory when they host Africa’s top-ranked side Senegal in a 2022 FIFA World Cup Group H qualifier at the neutral Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

The Brave Warriors must beat the west African giants to stand a chance of finishing top in their pool and advance to the third and final stage of qualifying. Victory for Senegal will see them progress with two games to spare.

It will be a tough ask against a star-studded Senegal line-up, who claimed a 4-1 victory in the reverse fixture that was played in Thies on Saturday, where Idrissa Gueye, Famara Diedhiou, Sadio Mane and Keita Balde were all on target.

Joslin Kamatuka grabbed what proved a consolation for Namibia in the second half, but the scoreline does not reflect the flow of the game.

Namibia certainly deserved more from the contest, which gives coach Bobby Samaria hope ahead of the second match-up.

“We started off very sluggishly and we allowed them to score two goals in the first half,” he said. “They are tactically gifted, and they dominated down their left [flank], and we took some time to settle in with a few corrections for the second half.

“It could have ended 4-3, because we had our chances too in this game. Football is about the passion we have for the game and it’s all about that passion that drives us to fight.

“Although we continued to make mistakes, we showed progress with our speed, with Deon Hotto, Peter Shalulile and Willy Stephanus, who came on and upped our game. We also need to be more physical in the second match.”

Senegal coach Aliou Cisse was satisfied with his team’s performance but warned they will also have to raise their game for the second clash.   “We were committed to starting the match well and imposing our strength, and we managed to do it,” Cisse said.

“We mastered the game well, especially in the first half, and now there is a match waiting for us [in Johannesburg] and we must recover well.”     Cisse added that Namibia gave them a good test and that his players must learn to overcome the different styles brought by their opponents.

“When you are under pressure, you must sometimes have to opt for [long balls], especially since we have players up front who know how to do that job well.”

Senegal have not lost a World Cup qualifier since 2013 when they went down 3-1 in the Ivory Coast. They have won their last six in a row, scoring 15 goals and conceding just three.

Namibia can point to some recent success against the Senegalese though, defeating the side 2-1 at the recent 2021 COSAFA Cup that was played in Nelson Mandela Bay in July.

That was very much a shadow squad from guests Senegal though, with none of the players in that game in the current first-team squad.

Aside from that fixture, Senegal have won all six previous clashes with the Brave Warriors, since their first in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. They have scored 20 goals to Namibia’s two.

The match is being played in Johannesburg while necessary refurbishments are under way at the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Windhoek.