Namibia have claimed their most famous result in continental football taming the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon 2-1 in a scintillating African Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group C qualifier played in South Africa.
The Tafel Lager Brave Warriors are undefeated with five points and sit on the summit of the group after three games. A date against minnows Burundi in June separates them from a place at the 2024 Ivory Coast AFCON indaba.
After a drab first half that was evenly balanced, the tempo changed in the second stanza with the Ryan Nyambe, Absalom Iimbondi and Dynamo Fredericks marauding the Brave Warriors’ left flank much to the chagrin of the Cameroon defensive formations.
That pressure paid off 10minutes into the second half as Cameroon were caught out when a left footed screamer from Unam’s Ndero Katua was parried by Devis Epassy in goal for the Indomitable Lions, only for marksman Peter Shalulile to stab it in.
The goal sucked the visitors’ energy further and the game tilted to the hosts’ side as Shalulile et al ran amok in a match whose tally could have quadrupled had the Brave Warriors not shown a little mercy to Cameroon’s hesitant defending.
In the 61st minute Kosovo export Prins Tjiueza found space after teasing his marker, but instead of locating a free Shalulile, decided to go for glory which Epassy was equal to. Such was the respect the visitors were being accorded.
But the boys outran themselves. Cameroon had until the 74th minute only one shot (off target), whereas the Brave Warriors dominated proceedings with 5 shots on target and four shots off target, within the same timeline.
The Brave Warriors fought for every ball and coach Collin Benjamin did not hold back on his attacking 4-4-1-1 even with a goal’s lead, something he learnt in Yaoundé last week, as this time he chose not to defend the lead—attack was the best form of defense. A 64th minute double substitution of African Stars forward Edmar Kamatuka and Orlando Pirates holder Brandon Neibeb for Deon Hotto and Tjiueza provided the balance needed in progression as Cameroon sought an equalizer.
Riaan Hanamub was rock solid in defense frustrating Cameroon’s Mbeumo and Ngamaleu on the right, while Denzil Haoseb and Ananias Gebhardt seemed to have been tasked one job the entire afternoon—stop Vincent Aboubakar—something they did amicably until the 90th minute.
In the 74th minute, a foul on Shalulile by Nantes’ Jean-Charles Castelleto was ignored by the referee right on the edge of the box after Sha-Sha, as Shalulile is nicknamed at Sundowns, had dummied his marker connecting from a brilliant move by Kamatuka.
Seconds later, Kamatuka was gifted a loose ball from a shambolic clearance by the visitors, what he did with that ball, only he knows as it could have been three-up by now.
But with the Brave Warriors calling the shots, Sha-Sha was again fouled in another glorious position just outside the box in what Supersport replays show that it was a bookable offence and the culprit was already on a yellow. Cameroon could have been one man down.
Ingwe’s Iimbondi stepped up on that resultant free kick, slalomed a right footed shot which blistered past Aboubakar in-wall and Epassy unaware. 2-nil. Who would have thought? They don’t call him Kamutyasha for nothing at Tigers.
This 78th minute goal seemed to spur the Brave Warriors, Fredericks begun leading the charges, stitching neat through passes as Cameroon were in sixes and sevens, `the urge to attack, yet the need to defend.
And still Cameroon had no shot on target.
The only missing component of this afternoon’s treat was the fans. By now they would have been chanting ‘We want more-We want more’, as usual. Alas, the stadium was empty, Sundowns coach Rulani Mokwena was visible and so were a handful of travelling Namibians. The rest was just assistant coach Ronnie Kanalelo’s touchline barks engulfing the stadium. Other than that, everyone gave their own.
In the 85th minute, captain Aboubakar’s effort went off target summarizing his side’s sorrowful afternoon.
Cameroon continued to chase shadows and only got their first strike on target in the 90th minute when they pulled one back while Namibia was still adjusting settings to the introduction of Bethuel Muzeu and Wendell Rudath for Sha-Sha and Iimbodi in the 88th. Their goal came on the stroke of full time when the Turkish based Aboubakar—famous for his magical World Cup goal that sank Brazil and got him red carded in the celebrations—tapped in a long cross to beat Lloyd Kazapua who was largely unemployed the entire second half.
The goal by Cameroon offered a nervy finish but the Brave Warriors held the edge in the remaining four minutes of added time, even coming close to making it three.
An unheralded team of journeymen defeating 5-time African champions and World Cup frequenters, is one of Namibia’s greatest victories. This one stands alone in myth and memory. The setting was not perfect because it was in exile territory (South Africa) but the narrative is irresistible, as Cameroon coached by one of Africa’s most loved sons Rigobert Song, were vanquished by a bunch of Brave Warriors some of whom had never dreamt of playing in Africa, let alone Cameroon.
This result was celebrated from State House to Katutura’s dusty streets of Ombili over a cold Tafel Lager Tuesday evening where impromptu street parties erupted from Wamboland to Walvis Bay.