BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
WARRIORS star midfielder Marvelous Nakamba has challenged his teammates to quickly regroup and get their campaign back on track ahead of their departure for Zambia today for a high stakes 2021 Afcon Group H qualifier at the National Heroes Stadium on Tuesday.
This is after the Warriors produced one of their worst performances on home soil in a long-time following a highly frustrating goalless draw against Botswana in their opening 2021 Afcon Group H qualifier on Friday night.
The Warriors, who seemingly had an off-day, barely bothered the Botswana Zebras the entire match at the National Sport Stadium despite boasting a star studded side, with players such as Aston Villa’s Nakamba, Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat and returning skipper Knowledge Musona.
Zimbabwe’s failure to beat the lowest ranked team in the group at home put a major dent on their chances of qualifying for the continental championships set for Cameroon in a group that also includes African champions Algeria and neighbours Zambia.
Nakamba, however, believes that despite the disappointing start to the campaign the team has what it takes to get a positive result against Zambia in Lusaka on Tuesday, which would go a long way in getting their campaign back on track.
“Right now we have a match against Zambia on Tuesday and we are prepared for it. A draw here is disappointing, but I think we should look to get something against Zambia,” Nakamba said.
“We are disappointed right now, but I think we need to go to Zambia and correct the mistakes we did today.
“We can also help each other by telling each other the truth and I am sure we will get something. We need to be more confident on the ball, clinical and to push each other as a team.”
After a sluggish first half performance, Nakamba was easily the best player on view for Zimbabwe, as the team pushed for maximum points after the breather, but lacked the creativity and cutting edge going forward.
The midfield maestro dismissed the notion that he was under pressure to perform, especially coming from the English Premier League.
“I am proud to play for Zimbabwe, so there was no pressure at all. I am happy to be given the chance to play for my country and I always give my all.
Representing the country is a motivation for me. We are really disappointed because the fans were behind us and unfortunately, we didn’t get a win,” he said.
The Warriors will be desperate to collect maximum points against the Zambians, who are also under immense pressure to win after suffering a humiliating 5-0 defeat to Algeria in their opening qualifying match in Blida on Thursday.
However, it will be the Warriors who will head into the match under more pressure as they face tough back-to-back matches against African champions Algeria when the qualifiers resume in August next year.
Questions have been raised on Antipas’ pedigree to take the country to the promised land after he struggled at home against Somalia in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers preliminary round a couple of months ago.
Antipas stirred the ire of fans with his team selection, seeming tactical bankruptcy and failure to make a substitution until the 80th minute.
But there is no time to cry over spilt milk as the Warriors face Zambia at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on Tuesday looking to make amends.
Antipas may be forced to make a few changes after a lacklustre showing from players like captain Knowledge Musona, Ovidy Karuru, Marshall Munetsi and striker Knox Mutizwa.
Kudakwashe Mahachi, who came in as a late substitute and caused lots of anxious problems for the visitors on Friday may have done enough to earn a place in the starting line-up for the Zambia tie. Inform Highlanders striker Prince Dube’s late cameo, which saw him claim the Warriors’ only other shot on target may have made a claim to the starting line as well.
Antipas may also face criticism after dropping Zambia-based Warrior Thabani Kamusoko, who plays for Zesco United for the game against Chipolopolo.
It would have been wise for the Warriors gaffer to add creativity in the middle of the park by unleashing the sure-footed Kamusoko in familiar territory.
Other players dropped for the short trip to Lusaka include Terrence Dzvukamanja and Chapungu goalkeeper Talbert Shumba.