The clock is ticking towards the Warriors’ 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group opening match against Algeria’s Desert Foxes at the Stade de Franceville Stadium in Gabon at 6pm today.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
This is a game which the Warriors must either win or draw to stay in the race for a place in the quarter finals of Africa’s biggest football competition.
Winning, however, should be high on the Warriors’ agenda as this game is going to give an idea of what the Zimbabwean team is going to offer in the 16-team competition.
A win would boost the Warriors’ confidence ahead of the remaining two Group B matches against Senegal and Tunisia, while a loss would leave the Warriors with a very difficult task of trying to qualify to the next stage of the tournament.
Although from the outset, it may appear as though the Warriors do not stand a chance against the star-studded Algerian team, there are many in Zimbabwe — including former Black Rhinos striker Richard Katoleza — who believe the Warriors will snatch up the much-needed three points.
“It is good that we are going into this game as underdogs. Nobody is giving us a chance and that is to our advantage. They are talking of Algeria’s stars, but they will have a different story to tell on Sunday. Zimbabwe is going to win,” said Katoleza.
Yes, there have been too many problems in the Warriors camp but history has shown that the Warriors perform better when they have such problems, as evidenced by the 2-1 win over Malawi when they had travelled all the way there by road.
In fact, since the Dream Team days of 1993, the national soccer team has always given its best under such circumstances and Kalisto Pasuwa’s new breed of Warriors should do no less.
All the Warriors need to do is to act normal, be at ease, be free and focus on their own game rather than that of their opponents. They need not read too much into what the international football family is saying about the overall strength of the Desert Foxes.
Coach Kalisto Pasuwa should also make the Warriors understand that they would be playing 11 against 11 and that names do not count much in African football competitions.
For the record, the host of the Super Eagles of Nigeria’s international stars, including Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel of Chelsea and Kelechi Iheanacho of Manchester City, failed to qualify for the 2017 Nations Cup finals.
Add to that, Warriors will be buoyed by the fact that the last time they met the Desert Foxes at this level of competition at the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations, they won 2-1 with goals from the late Adam Ndlovu and Joel Luphahla.
Football history is also littered with upsets. Nobody gave the Portuguese national team any chance of lifting the European Cup until they overcame the hosts, France in the final. the Warriors can also do the same, first by overcoming the Desert Foxes.
A group of fans has travelled to Franceville to give the Warriors support in the stadium, but even back at home sports bars should be full to the brim as the nation rallies behind the Warriors.
Those privileged enough to be at the Stade de Franceville Stadium will surely give the Warriors all the support they need, even when things are not going in Zimbabwe’s favour.
There are also others who are hoping to cash in on the Warriors by placing their bets on the Zimbabwean team and picking up the $5,25 for a dollar the bookmakers have placed for a Zimbabwean win.
It now remains for the Warriors to deliver the goods.
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