WITH Zimbabwe showing their battling qualities to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat against African champions — Algeria — soccer fans have been charmed by the team’s never-say-die spirit.
Fans are convinced the Warriors will qualify for the finals.
The Warriors refused to be cowed into meek submission by the Desert Foxes to earn a 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium on Monday in a 2021 Afcon Group H qualifier.
Skipper Knowledge Musona and Prince Dube scored for the hosts.
The result atoned for the 1-3 defeat they suffered in the first leg last week in Algiers.
With Algeria already qualified (10 points), this leaves Zimbabwe (5 points) in second position and firmly in the hunt for a slot at next year’s finals.
Botswana (4 points) leapfrogged Zambia into third position following their 1-0 triumph over Chipolopolo (3 points) who now anchor the four-team table. The top two sides from each group proceed to the finals.
With the qualifiers now past the halfway mark, only two fixtures are left to conclude the campaign. Zimbabwe are set to visit Botswana before hosting Zambia in the remaining games early next year.
With the Warriors salvaging a precious point from their ‘redemption’ against the more fancied opponents, fans’ reaction to the action rebuffed the all-too-familiar sinking feeling.
Fans across Manicaland threw their weight behind the squad.
Baldwin Chidzikwe of Chikanga said the match’s outcome feeds the country’s quest for qualification.
“I think we managed to redeem ourselves well from the Algiers setback. It was important for us to get at least a draw from this contest at home after losing the first tie away. This sets the tone and provides a tonic for the remainder of the qualifiers.
“We put up a very good fight in the second half and that was a great comeback. I guess they do not call us the Warriors for nothing. Qualification is still very much possible and we have to be masters of our own destiny. If we prevail in our next two assignments against Botswana and Zambia, then we are through,” said Chidzikwe.
Former Tanganda goal-minder, Spencer Ngove, who won the prestigious Castle Cup in 1993 with the now defunct Mutare-based ex-Premiership side, urged Zimbabwe to build on the current momentum.
“The time the lads spent together after grouping for this double-header and Monday’s result shows just how much we could benefit if the boys could be together for longer periods. The fact that they did not break camp helped a lot. It created the much-needed continuity.
“This, therefore, calls for more thorough and smooth preparations going forward. In the period between now and our next match, we have to make the most of that time by adequately preparing.
“If we are not serious about getting ready for such important assignments, we plan to fail. We have to keep the good vibe going and apply ourselves well in other games,” Ngove told Post Sport from his South African base.
For Charles Chasinda of Sakubva, there were several positives to draw from this week’s match.
“We were playing the best team on the continent and scored twice against them. That was remarkable. We managed to hold a team that has not lost in their past 22 or so games, that is a big plus for us. We are the first team to breach their defence and score against them and that shows what we are capable of.
“With the attacks showcased in the second half, we can destroy many teams. It was refreshing to note that there is a variety of options for the different positions and this gives us enough ammunition,” said Chasinda.
Owen Nemakonde of Dangamvura called on the national team to continue pulling in the same direction.
“This is not the time for witch-hunting. Some people were unhappy with the team selection, while others doubted the coach’s pedigree. But I think Monday’s game eased the worries and scattered those grains of doubt. Now is the time to show that we have learnt our lessons and rectified our mistakes. Falling short at times is part of the game, but dusting ourselves up and moving on is vital.
“We are in the right direction and we cannot afford to derail this promising campaign. Everyone in that team — from the players to the coaches — deserves our unwavering support,” said Nemakonde.
However, Tenson Gudyanga of Nyanyadzi says the Warriors still need to work on some aspects of the game.
“The two matches showed us a recurrent pattern of similar errors. We lapsed at crucial moments and in dangerous areas during the game. This proved to be our biggest undoing. Just like what happened in Algeria, we allowed their player to rise in the box unmarked and nod their opener home.
“Again, we gave Riyad Mahrez too much respect and allowed him to weave his magic. With the quality he possesses, the moment he is not shut out he can deliver devastating blows.
“The showing in the second half was better, however. We read the game well and took it to them. The substitutes proved their value and were worthy additions. They came to the party and rescued us,” said Gudyanga.
Genius Dube is charmed by the team’s potential.
“To think that this was not our full strength squad is pleasing given how we fared. Just imagine how much of a force we will be if we get players like Marshal Munetsi and Tatenda Mkuruva, among others, whom we missed for one reason or the other. This group can only get better with time and good management. We will go places,” purred Dube of Hobhouse.