FORGET about the 2-0 loss at the hands of Senegal’s Teranga Lions In Franceville on Thursday evening.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Zimbabwe are still in with a chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in history.
Although the Warriors lost to Senegal, Tunisia’s 2-1 win over the Desert Foxes of Algeria has left the group wide open on the team that will take the second quarterfinal qualifying place.
With the Teranga Lions having qualified with six points, Zimbabwe can finish second by beating Tunisia and hope that Senegal play fair by fielding their best team against Algeria in their third and final Group B game.
Tunisia are on three points while the Warriors and Algeria are both on one point each. A win for the Warriors against the Carthage Eagles, coupled with a loss or draw for the Desert Foxes, would steer the Warriors into the quarterfinals.
The Warriors could have been in a far much better position had they finished off the too many chances they created in their opening game against Algeria.
Instead of counting on results from other matches, the Warriors should have done the job themselves by picking up at least three points from their first two matches just like they did in the qualifiers.
However, the Zimbabweans can take comfort in the fact that all hope is not lost and they can still qualify for the last eight by overcoming Tunisia and in the process reap the rewards of doing so.
The Warriors are well aware of what qualification for the quarterfinals would mean. Kalisto Pasuwa’s side would be thrust into the history books as the first ever Zimbabwean team to reach the quarterfinals of the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Continued participation in the tournament would also give the players more time to impress talent scouts who are hunting for players for big clubs in Europe.
For players like Cuthbert Malajila who are playing in their last Nations Cup finals, a quarter final berth would leave lasting memories in a career that also saw them winning club league titles both at home and in South Africa.
On the other hand, failure to reach the quarterfinals would also have its consequences.
Pasuwa’s breed of Warriors would be classified in the same league as the Warriors classes of 2004 and 2006 which failed to come out of the group stages after a fairytale qualifying campaign under Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri respectively.
All that was done against Algeria and the excitement that was generated by that sterling performance against the Desert Foxes would also count for nothing should the Warriors fail to qualify for the quarterfinals.
In fact, the Warriors could have won the Algerian game by as much as five goals had they utilised all the scoring opportunities that came their way, with them even coming face-to-face with the goalkeeper, but it was not to be.
However, that is now history and focus should now be placed on the Carthage Eagles game.
With only one game left in the group stages, goals are very crucial at this stage. Should Algeria overcome Senegal and Zimbabwe win against Tunisia, the second place position could be decided on goal difference, and right now Zimbabwe are a goal down to the Algerians.
Pasuwa should come up with the right striking options which guarantee a glut of goals.
Marabhundu has to be spot on, on who among Cuthbert Malajila, Evans Rusike, Matthew Rusike, and Tendai Ndoro should partner Nyasha Mushekwi in the absence of the injured Knowledge Musona.
Should Musona recover in time for the crunch tie, the coach would also have to decide whether to play him alongside Mushekwi or give Malajila, Ndoro, or Evans Rusike the chance to start.
Ndoro, the current leading striker in the South African Absa Premiership, has been confined to the bench for too long, and the coach has nothing to lose by giving him a start against the North Africans.
The battle against the Teranga Lions has been lost but the war is still on. The Warriors should forget about the Senegalese defeat, compose themselves, and go all out for victory over the Carthage Eagles.
The game is still on.
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