Zimbabwe Warriors midfielder Marvelous Nakamba has credited his participation in the lucrative Uefa Champions league for his sterling performances for the country in two crucial 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against the Democratic Republic of Congo during the recent international break.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
Nakamba — a champion with Belgian side Club Brugge — made his debut in the Uefa Champions Legue at the famed Wanda Metropolitano Stadium — the home of Spanish giants Atletico Madrid — early this month.
The 24-year-old was a 56th minute substitute in a match the Belgian champions lost 3-1, with French striker Antoine Griezmann scoring twice and Spanish midfielder Koke chipping in with another one.
Arnaut Groeneveld grabbed the consolation goal for Brugge.
But it was the performance of the “Dutch Master” as Nakamba is affectionately known as Zimbabwe recorded two incredible results against a star-studded DRC side to place the country on the brink of an Afcon qualification.
He shown like a beacon against continental stars like FC Porto’s Chancel Mbemba, Marcel Tisserand of VFL Wolfsburg, Gaël Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano), Benik Afobe (Stoke), yannick bolasie (Aston Villa) and Jordan Ikoko (EA Guingamp) to mention a few.
“I think I am getting the experience I need to improve myself playing in the Uefa Champions League with Brugge,” Nakamba told Standardsport.
“To get better as a footballer you need to play against those big teams like Atletico Madrid.
“My champions’ league debut was fantastic playing against Griezman, Diego Costa, Thomas Lemar and the experience was very good.
“But I have played against the so-called big players before. I played against Chelsea when I was at Vitesse Arnhem, I have played a lot of Europa games and now I have reached Champions League level with Club Brugge.”
Nakamba is not only excited about his own improvement as a player, but reckons the Warriors have made significant strides and can achieve great things on the world stage.
While many marvelled at the 2-1 away triumph in DRC as well as the one-all home draw last week, Nakamba believes the results were a mere statement to everyone who underestimated Zimbabwe.
“I think each and every player in the team is getting stronger and better. We are also becoming closer to each other as Zimbabwean players and we are encouraging each other to improve,” he said.
“Motivation in the matches against the DRC was easy. Everyone never gave us a chance, so we just told ourselves that we have to prove those people who are underestimating us.
“I think football is getting better and better everywhere in the world; and given a chance here in Zimbabwe I think we can show the world our quality and achieve many great things.”
It was a welcome return for Nakamba who missed the trip to Congo in September, which ended in a 1-1 stalemate, due to injury and his absence was greatly missed.
Nakamba was part of the squad that represented the country at the 2017 Afcon finals where Zimbabwe crushed out in the first round of the competition in a group comprising Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria.
Disappointed at failing to beat the DRC in front of a near capacity crowd and subsequently book a place at the Cameroon 2019 finals, Nakamba is happy that the destiny remains in their hands.
“I don’t think we were under pressure against them at home, but unfortunately, we conceded,” he said.
“However, I think we played very well. We still have two games to fight for and in these two games we have something to play for. It’s still in our hands.
“We just have to remain focused and I think we will qualify comfortably. We are playing to qualify for Afcon. we are focusing and giving everything to be among the best teams in Africa in Cameroon.”
Zimbabwe top Group G with eight points while DRC chase in second place with five points with Liberia and Congo tied on four points, two matches before the end of the campaign.
The Warriors play Liberia away, next needing just a point to progress.
Meanwhile, Nakamba is set to make another Uefa Champions League appearance next week as Club Brugge host French side Monaco.