Britz targets AFCON knockout stage

By Michael Uugwanga

AFTER guiding the U-20 men football team to next month’s U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), coach James Britz has said that his target at the championship is to reach the knockout stage.

Namibia qualified to its first ever U-20 AFCON tournament after reaching the final of the 2019 Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) U-20 tournament that was held in South Africa in December losing 1-0 to Mozambique in the final.

The U-20 AFCON championship will be contested by 12 countries and will take place in Mauritania from February 14 to March 4.

The other qualified teams are host Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Gambia, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Tanzania, Central African, Cameroon and Mozambique.

Namibia is in group B of the AFCON tourney and will face Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Central Africa Republic.

Namibia’s first match will be against Central African Republic, before they take on Tunisia and then Burkina Faso.

Britz is the third Namibian coach to lead a team to a major AFCON tournament after Rusten Mogane guided the Brave Warriors to its first AFCON tournament in 1998, before Ricardo Mannetti did the same with the Brave Warriors at the 2019 AFCON.

The U-20 team has been hard at work after the festive season and is currently training at the Namibia Football Association (NFA) Technical Centre in Windhoek ahead of the junior tournament.

Speaking to Confidente Sports Desk, Britz said that he does not want to put too much pressure on his players despite knowing that the top four finalist teams will receive golden tickets to the FIFA U-20 World Cup to be staged in Indonesia.

If he manages to guide the team to at least a fourth place finish he will make history by becoming the first Namibian coach to guide a team to a World Cup, be it male or female team or at any national level.

“ Preparations were a bit difficult as the Covid-19 results took a bit longer than expected, so it has a been a bit of a struggle as we still have to get six players from other regions depending on their results.

“We started with training. In total we have called up 42 players, for the final squad. We will have 32 for the final training group and the final squad depends on the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on the number of players they recommend to each team.

“You see we need to go and do well. We are going to play against the powerhouses of Africa. We are currently ranked 12 in Africa in the U-20 ranking and we can still improve depending on how far we can go in the tournament. So the first objective for us is to go out of the group stages.

“The top four goes to the World Cup and as a coach you only want to do what is best and like us we are thinking of going to the world cup but first of all we do not want to get our hopes so high, as first of all for us now is to get the team to the best shape it can have.”

Britz also thanked the Namibia Football Association (NFA) in particular its president Ranga Haikali and secretary general Franco Cosmos for their support towards the team.

Britz said this after the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service rewarded the team financially for reaching the final of the COSAFA Cup.

“Haikali and Cosmos have been so supportive. The boys had an unforgettable festive season thanks to the government for rewarding the players,” he said.