Namibia
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Let’s wait and see: Benjamin

Destiny favours the bold, and the Brave Warriors were anything but against Burundi on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, says Namibia head coach Collin Benjamin.

As well as lacking courage or cohesion, they repeatedly made costly errors which Burundi’s Swallows duly punished them for in the opening half of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, he said.

Namibia remain top of Group C on five points from four matches despite the 3-2 defeat, with Burundi now level on four points with Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions.

Cameroon hosts Burundi in September and a win for either side secures top spot along with qualification for the finals together. Namibia will end second in that scenario, a position that guarantees qualification to a fourth appearance at the biennial African football showcase.

“I want to congratulate Burundi, they are a good team, they took their chances and that’s exactly what we lacked,” Benjamin said in his post match analysis.

The hosts raced into a three-goal lead inside the opening 20 minutes through quick-fire strikes from Abedi Bigirimana, Bonfils-Caleb Bimenyimana and Hussein Shabani.

Namibia captain Peter Shalulile hit back for the Brave Warriors just before half-time and Wendell Rudath further reduced the deficit five minutes from the end.

“We lost this match in the first 15 minutes of the game. [We were] not concentrated, not taking responsibility and in these decisive moments not being courageous to make the right decisions,” Benjamin lamented.

“We let them get those goals very easily, and at this level if you allow a team to get those easy goals, you will be punished. And, that’s what Burundi did,” he continued.

The deflating performance was the antithesis of Namibia’s last two encounters in March when they upstaged five-time Afcon winners Cameroon.

The absence of first choice goalkeeper Lloyd Kazapua through suspension, the experienced winger Deon Hotto and youthful attacking midfielder Prinz Tjiueza due to injury, appeared to affect the team’s rhythm.

The trio were central to the Warriors game-plan against pressure from Cameroon, who must win at home against Burundi to be certain of qualifying.

“Our fate is not in our own hands. We don’t have any influence over that. We had our chance and we lost it. We’ll see what is going to happen in the next match,” Benjamin said.

Scoring before the break helped galvanise the disoriented Warriors, he said.

“I think to come back before half-time through Peter and Wendel towards the end, was a good fight for my team. But these are mistakes that we made and we will go back to the training field to try and rectify that,” said Benjamin.

BATTLES FOR AFCON SPOTS

Elsewhere, Kelechi Iheanacho scored a 95th-minute winner as Nigeria survived a scare to beat Sierra Leone 3-2 and secure qualification.

Victor Osimhen, Serie A’s top scorer with 26 goals as Napoli won the title last season, put Nigeria 2-0 up inside 32 minutes with a deft lob and a close-range finish.

Sierra Leone, playing in Liberia because they do not have an international stadium, levelled through Mustapha Bundu and Augustus Kargbo.

But Leicester City striker Iheanacho poked home the winner to secure qualification and send Guinea-Bissau through as Group A runners-up.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s international return did not go to plan as Gabon lost 2-0 at home to the Democratic Republic of Congo – a result which lifted DRC from the bottom to the top of Group I.

Gabon are second in a group from which all four teams can qualify, but they must beat Sudan in the final round of games in September to go through.

Ghana missed out on qualifying with a game to spare as they were held 0-0 in Madagascar.

Two points separate the Group E leaders from Angola in second and third-placed Central African Republic, whom they host on 3 September.

The Central African Republic, who could also have qualified, lost 2-1 at home to Angola.

Patson Daka and Kings Kangwa struck and Serge Aurier scored an own goal as Zambia beat hosts Ivory Coast 3-0 in Ndola to seal their Afcon place.

A late penalty gave Equatorial Guinea an impressive 1-0 win against Tunisia in Malabo that secure a second successive Afcon qualification, while Cape Verde, with a population less than 600 000, will make their fourth appearance at the tournament following a 3-1 home win over Group B winners Burkina Faso.

Mali secured top spot in Group G with a 2-0 win in Congo-Brazzaville, who face a winner-takes-all clash with the Gambia for the runners-up spot.

Hosts Ivory Coast, holders Senegal, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and Tunisia had already secured their spot in the 24-team Afcon, which was postponed to January next year because of the summer rainy season in West Africa. – Additional reporting from BBC.