BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
WARRIORS star forward Khama Billiat believes hosts Egypt will be under immense pressure to perform in front of their fans when the two sides open the 32nd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals at the 80 000-seater Cairo Stadium on Friday.
Egypt, the record seven-time African champions, headline Group A along with the Warriors, DR Congo and Uganda.
While Egypt are being billed as the overwhelming favourites to not only top the group, but to also win the continental title on home soil, Billiat believes they will feel the pressure of playing on home soil.
“I believe they’ve got more pressure than we do because they’re playing at home, so they’re expected to perform and to have it easier,” the 28-year-old Kaizer Chiefs attacker told SABC Sport.
“We are not going to let it go just like that. We’re going to show professionalism and they’re going to work for it and if they slip up, we are definitively going to show them,” he said.
According to Billiat, the current generation of the Zimbabwe Warriors should benefit from the experience they gained from the 2017 tournament played in Gabon and would be no pushovers in Egypt as they look to reach the knockout stages for the first time.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are going to be playing at Afcon for the second time in their careers. When we went there for the first time, we were too much excited and we couldn’t control our emotions and we ended up conceding easy goals,” Billiat said.
“I believe this time around we’ve got the belief, we know how it is playing there, knowing whats happening and what has happened before and we want to try and rectify what we did the last time. We just have a good feeling that this time around it’s a different ball game and we really need to go out of the groups, that’s the target.”
The former Mamelodi Sundowns star also admitted that he still harbours ambitions of playing in Europe and will be aiming to make a good impression on potential suitors during the Afcon finals.
“I think it is a very important tournament for every African player to see how far you are as an individual,” the 2015/16 South African Premiership’s Footballer of the Year said.
“You get to compare yourself to other players from West Africa and so forth.”
Billiat was heavily linked with overseas clubs after impressing at the 2017 Afcon finals in Zimbabwe’s matches against North African giants Algeria and Tunisia.
However, it was widely reported that his club at the time, Sundowns, rejected offers from Europe and Asia, and the player ended up leaving the club as a free agent last year.
“It is a good platform for players to go to Europe to get new clubs and even get better contracts,” he explained.
“Yes, it is important for all of us. We all play football for that [in order to secure moves to Europe].
“If you are good enough, then it [the chance] will come. But this is everything for us. We really have to show the best of our abilities.”
According to SABC Sport, should another overseas offer come for Billiat after the 2019 Afcon finals, Chiefs will not think twice if it meets their evaluation for the player.