Warriors and the Atlas Lions of Morocco fall on each other’s paths in their bid to reclaim lost integrity when they clash in an African Nations Championships (Chan) Group B opener at Athlone Stadium in Cape Town this afternoon.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Although this tournament is limited to home-based players, it does not take away the fact that the teams would be playing for their respective flags.
For Zimbabwe and Morocco, this is a component of their bigger transformation projects.
Over the years, both sides have slid down to become unrecognisable in African football.
Zimbabwe at some point were a dreaded force during Renhard Fabisch’s Dream Team in the 1990s.
They were again a strong side between 2003 and 2006 when they qualified for the African Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Since then, there have been very little to cheer about the Warriors who are emerging from the rubbles of mediocrity under Ian Gorowa.
Morocco, once an indomitable force in African football made the long trip from North Africa to Cape Town seeking to storm into the final of a major competition since Afcon 2004.
They are in their debut Chan tournament which they hope to use in burying a battered image which has seen them failing to get past Afcon group stages in recent editions or even failing to qualify for the tournament in 2010.
Their newly-appointed coach Hassan Benabicha revealed his intentions last week.
“All the players are fit and ready,” Benabicha told SuperSport.com.
“I am trying to make the players understand that they represent the national team and there is no difference between the local team and country. Our goal is to reach the semifinals and why not even the final? We have quality players and we are ready for the competition.”
Morocco have eight players who helped Raja Casablanca muscle their way into the final of the Fifa Club World Cup where they lost 2-0 to European champions Bayern Munich.
The last meeting between Zimbabwe and Morocco was in Casablanca in June 2007 when the North Africans beat the Warriors 2-0 in an Afcon qualifier.
They had drawn 1-1 in the reverse fixture at Rufaro three months earlier.
A friendly international in January 2006 ended in a 1-0 victory for the Atlas Lions in Marrakech as both sides prepared for that year’s Afcon edition.
Zimbabwe concluded up their preparations late yesterday with a training session at the match venue.