JOHANNESBURG: Zimbabwe were bundled out of the African Nations Championship Sunday (Monday in Manila) by rusty Namibia, just two weeks after being hailed as national heroes for becoming regional champions.
Many of the players who beat Zambia to win the COSAFA Cup southern Africa title were in the team that beat Namibia 1-0 in Harare, but lost 5-4 on penalties.
The shootout was triggered by an aggregate deadlock after Namibia won the first leg of the second round qualifier 1-0 in Windhoek last weekend.
Namibia converted all five spot-kicks, but Zimbabwe goalkeeper Herbert Rusawo had his saved to cost the “Warriors” the tie.
Prince Dube scored the only goal on 39 minutes at the National Sports Stadium, cancelling the first-leg advantage Namibia gained through a Hendrik Somaeb scorcher.
The exit of Zimbabwe after the second of three qualifying rounds for the 2018 Nations Championship in Kenya next January and February was a shock.
They had qualified for the four previous editions of a competition restricted to footballers registered with clubs in their country of birth.
With most African nationals squad composed almost exclusively of Europe-based players, the Nations Championship was introduced in 2008 to give local stars international exposure.
Matches have full international status, count toward the monthly FIFA rankings and caps are awarded.
Another factor that seemed to favor Zimbabwe was the rustiness of Namibia as there has been no domestic league football for more than a year due to feuding among officials.
Tiny island state Comoros booked a third-round tie against Namibia during August despite losing 1-0 to Lesotho at Setsoto Stadium in Maseru.
Reboame Koloti struck after only 12 minutes to get the home team off to an encouraging start, but they failed to score again and bowed out 2-1 on aggregate.
Madagascar upset Mozambique 2-0 in Maputo after being held at home with goals from Bela Claudel Fanomezana and Njiva Rakotoharimalala setting up a showdown against Angola.
Another unexpected second leg result was Liberia defeating Mauritania 1-0 in Nouakchott through a Christopher Jackson goal six minutes before half-time.
But the win was not enough to erase the damage caused by a 2-0 loss in Monrovia last weekend and Mauritania progressed to face Mali next month.
Benin squeezed past Togo 8-7 on penalties after another 1-1 draw between the west African neighbors, this time in Cotonou.
Warris Aboki gave Benin an early second half lead that Kodjio Sewonou cancelled with 18 minutes remaining.