Namibia have looked to quickly put the disappointment of failure in the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers behind them and are plotting a new course for the future.
The Brave Warriors had lofty ambitions once their neighbours South Africa were named as hosts of the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals, but they were eliminated after finishing bottom of their qualifying group. It was a major setback for the ambitious team who have far exceeded expectations in the past, notably reaching the CAF African Cup of Nations final twice.
Namibia might have a large land mass but it has a small and disparate population, and as a result the Warriors achievements have sometimes surpassed the reality of their resources. Their future ambitions, though, stretch to encompass regularly being amongst the African superpowers and contenders for all tournaments.
Their next target will be qualification for the 2012 CAF African Cup of Nations, to be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. However, those preliminaries do not begin until one year from now, which means that between their elimination from the South Africa 2010 qualifiers and the start of the 2012 African Cup of Nations preliminaries, there is a 24-month hiatus.
I've made a road map, based a little on what Guus Hiddink put together for the Koreans,
Namibia are determined to use the time productively, to forge a side that can be more competitive in the future. To this end, they have turned to the unheralded Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, whose tenure began last year and who has since amassed a record of four wins, four draws and a lone defeat in nine matches in charge.
Their latest result was a convincing 4-0 win over the Democratic Republic of Congo, which contributed to Namibia jumping 12 places in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. The Brave Warriors are now hovering just outside of the top 100, significantly removed now from an all-time low of 167th in the world, a position which they inhabited just three years ago.
"It is a short term goal to do well in the FIFA rankings and to get into the world's top 100," Saintfiet told FIFA.com. "Long term goal is to be ready for the next qualifiers. We have to be in the final field for the next Cup of Nations," he insists.
Saintfiet has spent the last year running his eye over all the available talent in the country. "I've made a road map, based a little on what Guus Hiddink put together for the Koreans before they hosted the 2002 World Cup, and they had to play a lot of friendly matches to get ready for the tournament.
"I've tried as many as 65 players in games and in training camps and I've seen as many games in the Namibian premier league and other divisions as I can. I now have the time to work with the players and to train my tactics. By the time the qualifiers start, I'll have a selection of 25 payers who know what we want to do in every situation. It is not every coach who gets a four year contract and a decent opportunity to develop the team."