Namibia warn Group D giants: ‘Even small dogs have teeth’
Johannesburg (AFP) – The assumption is that former champions the Ivory Coast, Morocco and South Africa will wage a private war in Group D at the Africa Cup of Nations with Namibia helpless onlookers.
But Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti questions that belief ahead of the June 21-July 19 tournament in Egypt.
“I would like to remind the big boys that even small dogs have teeth,” warned the former national team midfielder.
Namibia have met all their Group D rivals before at the Cup of Nations without success — conceding five goals against Morocco and four each against the Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Here, AFP Sport looks at a group considered the strongest of the six in the first round with only the winners and runners-up guaranteed round-of-16 places
The Ivorians experienced ecstasy and agony in the last two editions, winning the 2015 final in Equatorial Guinea and crashing out after the first round two years ago in Gabon.
It is difficult to fathom how the class of 2019 will fare except to note that they have an attack that many rivals must envy.
Only French superstar Kylian Mbappe scored more Ligue 1 goals last season than Nicolas Pepe and Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha has tormented many Premier League defenders.
Coach Ibrahim Kamara will also be encouraged by the form of clubless Wilfried Bony, a 2015 Cup of Nations winner who bagged a brace in a recent warm-up match.
Verdict: Probable quarter-finalists; possible semi-finalists
The pressure is on the Cup of Nations coach with the winning touch, Frenchman Herve Renard, to bring the trophy back to Morocco after a 43-year absence.
Morocco finished first ahead of Guinea in 1976 in the only Cup of Nations decided exclusively by groups, but have reached only one final since, losing to 2004 hosts Tunisia.
Renard is the only coach to win the Cup of Nations with different countries, leading outsiders Zambia to glory in 2012 and repeating the feat with underachieving Ivory Coast three years later.
He has retained most of the squad that impressed at the World Cup last year without managing a win and Ajax Amsterdam winger Hakim Ziyech is among those on whom he will rely.
Verdict: Likely finals include Morocco against Egypt
Unlike Kamara, Renard and South Africa coach Stuart Baxter, there is no pressure on Mannetti, who admits his team are lucky just to be in Egypt.