The sun is shining in the eyes of the Warriors as the road to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals reaches the climax with fortune in favour of the Zimbabweans.
By Michael Kariati
Although they have to thank goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva for coming out with a point from the Somhlohlo Stadium in Mbabane, the goalless draw between the Syli Nationale of Guinea and the Flames of Malawi has given the Warriors the chance to take full control of Group L.
The Warriors only need a win against the Sihlangu at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow to open up a three point lead and put themselves one foot into the 2017 festival to be hosted by Gabon.
This is the closest the Warriors have come to qualification in the past 10 years and they will have themselves to blame should they fail to achieve qualification this time around.
Zimbabwe National Soccer Coaches Association chairman Beki Nyoni thinks the Warriors will be there in Gabon come 2017. “They only need not to be complacent against Swaziland. If only they can get three points, then they are on their way to Gabon,” said Nyoni.
Even Zimbabwe Football Association liaison officer Matthisa Kufandirimbwa believes the home game against Swaziland is the most crucial. “What we only need is to go on top of the table and forget to look back,” said Kufandirimbwa.
This is coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s chance to make history and become the third coach in history after Sunday Chidzambwa in 2004 and Charles Mhlauri in 2006 to take the Warriors to the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Pasuwa’s team has been struggling for goals and the coach needs to be spot-on in his striking position roles to ensure that goals pour in against the Sihlangu first and then in the remaining two matches.
This is also the chance for Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa to make history by becoming only the second Zifa supremo after Rafik Khan to take the Warriors to the continental football festival.
Khan was Zifa chairman in 2004 and 2006 and Chiyangwa and company have to ensure that everything is available for the Warriors to allow them to perform to their fullest.
There will also be stakes for the players.
Although Costa Nhamoinesu is comfortable at Europa League club Sparta Prague, for Zimbabwe’s other foreign based players like Knowledge Musona, Nyasha Mushekwi, Marvelous Nakamba, Khama Billiart and Mathew Rusike, qualification will offer them the opportunity to get offers at bigger clubs.
For those based at home like Danny Phiri, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Bruce Kangwa, Elisha Muroiwa, Tatenda Mukuruva, Ronald Chitiyo, and Marshall Mudehwe, this is the chance for them to prove a point and get offers abroad and abandon the low-paying domestic game.
The sun is shining for the Warriors but they can make it shine even brighter by winning against Swaziland.