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

Ivory Coast

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

Morocco

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

Namibia

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.

Trounced 4-1 by Zambia in the final qualifying round, the Brave Warriors made it because leaders Guinea-Bissau snatched a stoppage-time draw to deprive Mozambique of second place.

At least Mannetti knows what to expect as Namibia have conceded 13 goals in Cup of Nations matches against the Ivorians, Moroccans and South Africans.

"We do not expect to win the competition, but we need to qualify more often," says the coach. "Once every 10 years or so is not going to get us anywhere."

Verdict: it would be a sensation if they survived first round

South Africa

South Africa go to Egypt as one of the most unpredictable teams.

Bafana Bafana scaled the heights at the outset of 2019 qualifying by winning 2-0 in Nigeria, then sank into mediocrity by drawing 0-0 away to lowly ranked Seychelles.

England-born Baxter blamed the pitch in the Seychelles for the failure to score -- the same surface where Libya netted eight times.

Much will depend on the form of wide attacker Percy Tau, who was loaned to a Belgian second division club last season after signing for Premier League outfit Brighton.

Verdict: Anything is possible with Bafana

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