The Young Gladiators need to be on top of their game if they are to overturn a 5-0 deficit against South Africa in the return leg of the 2018 FIFA Women U-20 World Cup qualifier match on Sunday, at the Sam Nujoma Stadium.
The Young Gladiators played the first leg without their three most influential players, Memory Ngonda (playmaker), goalkeeper Melissa Matheus and Milicent Hikuam (central defender). The trio were playing for the Brave Gladiators at the COSAFA Women Championship that was held in Zimbabwe from 13-24 September.
The three players are all expected to play a big part in the second leg as the Young Gladiators seek to overturn the 5-0 deficit and proceed to the second round where Burundi awaits.
The FIFA Women U-20 World Cup will be staged in France next year with Africa only given two slots at the junior women football show piece.
No Namibian team has ever qualified for the world cup before at any level of football, but Young Gladiators Captain, Lydiana Nanamus, who plays in the heart of the defence, is confident that they can beat South Africa and proceed to the next round.
Speaking to the Windhoek Observer on Monday, Nanamus called on all football loving Namibians to come out in their big numbers and give support to the future Gladiators.
“I told the coach that we will make him happy in the second leg. I said this when we were traveling from South Africa and this will still be the same come Sunday.
“The entire team knows what we should do in order to win. Anything is possible. We want Namibians to come out in big numbers because without their support we will not perform to our fullest,” Nanamus said.
Coach Mervin Mbakera, who used a 4-5-1 formation in the first leg, is expected to play a more attacking formation on home soil.
Mbakera will have to decide who will start between goals, with Matheus favourite to reclaim her number one position, while Fiola Van Wyk, who was between the sticks in the first leg, is likely to start from the bench.
Matheus is still recovering from the injury she sustained while playing for the Brave Gladiators at the COSAFA Cup.
“Look, we had a good 32 minutes against South Africa and their first goal was their first attempt on target. I still need to look at the second goal because I thought it was from an offside position because our girls stood still as they thought it was an offside. Of course, the first goal on Sunday will be very crucial for both sides. If we score it will give us extra motivation to score more,” Mbakera said.