AFCON: Can Warriors conquer in Cameroon?

07 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
AFCON: Can Warriors conquer in Cameroon? The Warriors get their campaign underway against Senegal on Monday

The ManicaPost

Moffat Mungazi
Sports Reporter

 

WITH the stage set for the Warriors to kick off their 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals campaign, hopes are high that the team can pull their weight and fare better than they did at previous editions.

Action explodes on Sunday for the opener before Zimbabwe set the ball rolling in their Group B against 2019 losing finalists, Senegal.

The other teams in their pool are Malawi and Guinea.

The Warriors are making the second successive appearance at the biennial football jamboree and fifth overall after having been part of the 2004, 2006, 2017 and 2019 fiesta.

Following the administrative turmoil that foreshadowed their pre-tournament preparations and eventual departure to Cameroon following the suspension of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) board by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), fears abound that the team could be expelled from the finals.

This was after FIFA had issued an ultimatum for the reinstatement of the board by January 3.

With the lingering doubts about Zimbabwe’s participation at the 33rd edition of the continental soccer showcase now gone, it is all systems go for the Warriors, with their legions of supporters back home expecting a good outing.

 

Coach, Norman Mapeza, who is making his debut appearance at the prestigious tournament together with the bulk of the players in his platoon will be out to score a major milestone by progressing from the group stages for the first time in history.

In previous editions, the Warriors faltered at the first hurdle.

 

However, there was a different vibe to how the Warriors’ build-up to the finals panned out this time around, which has fuelled optimism among their faithful.

Bar the standoff between ZIFA and SRC, the team enjoyed one of the smoothest preparations in recent times.

They took off for Cameroon early and had a training camp in the host country as they were among the first to touch down.

 

This gave them ample time to acclimatise to the conditions there.

 

Knowledge Musona

Zimbabwe were involved in a sparring match and drew 0-0 against Sudan as they upped their preps and fine-tune the squad in readiness for action.

With sound backing from the Government through SRC, the bickering over the players’ allowances or remuneration was conspicuously absent.

The SRC on Wednesday confirmed that they had poured in US$1 million inclusive of appearance and match fees–to lubricate the team’s participation at the finals and inspire them to success.

Although they are missing Europe-based midfielders, Marvellous Nakamba and Marshall Munetsi through injury, former national team assistant coach, Lloyd “Samaita” Mutasa believes the boys can still compete.

“Going by the players that are available, this is a good squad. I think we have enough arsenal to fire us to the next stage. The blend between experience and youth gives the team a fine balance.

 

“Senior players like Knowledge Musona, Onismor Bhasera, Alec Mudimu and Teenage Hadebe will ably lead youngsters like Jordan Zemura and Admiral Muskwe,” said Mutasa, who was part of the technical team at the 2019 finals under the legendary, Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa.

He added that the starlets, especially those making their first appearances, will certainly be inspired to represent the country with distinction.

“The tournament can actually be a stepping stone for some players to launch themselves to stardom as it presents a perfect platform for them to showcase their talent. However, they have to play for the team while picking up valuable lessons and experience.”

For ex-Warriors hitman, Alois “Zola” Bunjira, there is always something naturally exciting to look forward to every time the national team participates at a major competition.

“I think we are all excited, the fans and the players.We are at the finals and have to think of ourselves as good as any other side that also qualified. Belief in ourselves that we can do it will be key. We do not have to fear or respect too much our opponents,” said Bunjira, who was among Zimbabwe’s pioneering cast at the 2004 edition in Tunisia.

“We have to get something out of every match we will play so as to keep us in contention. If the other results can go our way then that would be a bonus, but we have to shape and decide our own destiny. We are supporting the boys all the way. It’s Go Warriors Go!”

 

Bunjira said a positive start to the campaign will be a tonic to gather momentum and help set the tone for the remainder of the tournament.

As the Warriors troop into battle, they are out to be among the top two teams in their group to automatically earn passage to the knockout stages or at least finish third, which could see them squeeze in as one of the best third-placed finishers.

 

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