Namibia will hope to seal the deal when they host Tanzania in the return leg of their 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto on Saturday (kick-off 15h00).
Namibia lead 2-1 from the first leg played in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday after a brace from their star player Zenatha Coleman, and now know that even a 1-0 defeat will see them advance on the away goals rule.
Tanzania are certainly no pushovers; they showed their quality in winning the recent COSAFA Women’s Championship that was staged in Nelson Mandela Bay and will be desperate to turn the tables.
But the Brave Gladiators certainly have an ace up their sleeve in Spain-based Coleman, who showed once again why she is one of the leading players on the continent.
The COSAFA Women’s Championship might not have had the desired outcome in the end for coach Woody Jacobs as they took four points from their three pool games, but clearly it was excellent preparation for the Afcon qualifiers.
Tanzania very rarely lose on their own patch in official internationals, and had in fact not done so since 2015, which shows the enormity of Namibia’s feat.
But Jacobs will know too that the tie is far from over and his side will have to show the same intensity and fight this weekend.
Whoever does advance will face another massive challenge in the final round of qualifying with either Malawi or Zambia in wait. The first leg of that tie finished 1-1 with the return set to be played in Lusaka on Tuesday – a long wait to find out their opponents.
Tanzania coach Bakari Shime was confident his side could advance past either, having met both in the recent COSAFA tournament.
“If we eliminate Namibia, we will face either Malawi or Zambia, with whom we played in the just-ended COSAFA Women’s Championship. We eliminated Zambia in the semifinal through penalties, and later won 1-0 against Malawi in the final,” he said.
But that is a long way off for now, the most important thing for the Twiga Stars is to try and turn around their tie with the Namibians.
The match is being played in neutral South Africa with Namibia not having a suitable venue with which to host the fixture.
The qualifiers for the Nations Cup have added significance for all teams as the finals competition will serve as the preliminaries for the 2023 Women’s FIFA World Cup to be staged in Australia and New Zealand.
The top four teams in the African competition will book their place in the expanded 32-team global finals, while the sides that end fifth and sixth will play in inter-continental qualifiers that could see Africa have as many as six representatives
It is all part of FIFA’s commitment to grow the women’s game, but the path to the World Cup will end for one of Namibia and Tanzania on Saturday.