Warriors and Platinum Stars of South Africa goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has backed the national team to shine in the African Nations Championships (Chan) soccer finals which kick off in Sudan this weekend.
The Warriors, who had broken camp for the weekend and returned last night, will train today and tomorrow ahead of their departure on Wednesday.
They have been grouped with Niger and South Africa who will be fielding mostly their Under-23 players from Division Two and Three and 2009 losing finalists in the same competition, the Black Stars of Ghana.
The competition, designed for players trading in the domestic leagues only, runs from February 5 to 25.
In the last edition in Ivory Coast, the Warriors, then under Sunday Chidzambwa, drew their three group games against eventual champions the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Libya, in the process failing to make it into the knockout phase. Kapini, a veteran of many battles in the Warriors colours, believes there is enough talent in the national team for Zimbabwe to make an impression.
“I think they will do it because they do have a good coach and they have talent to compete at that level,” he said in an interview from South Africa on Saturday.
Acting head coach Madinda Ndlovu has gathered the best from the local league and added six youngsters from the Under-23 side as he seeks to build a team for the future. Qadr Amin, Joel Ngodzo, Simba Sithole, Denver Mukamba, Arial Sibanda and Archieford Gutu are travelling to Sudan.
Dynamos goalkeeper Washington Arubi will captain the team which has tried and tested players like Daniel Vheremu, Gilbert Mapemba, Tafadzwa Dube, Guthrie Zhokinyi, Zephaniah Ngodzo and Charles Chiutsa. Former Dynamos winger Benjamin Marere missed out due to injury.
Kapini added: “They (players) know what is expected of them by the nation and have to perform at their best.”
Ndlovu has admitted that Niger could turn out to be the surprise package in the group and the West Africans have already issued a stern warning. Ghana have been preparing in Kenya for the games while the South Africans were domiciled at home.
Niger coach Harouna Doula, buoyed by his side’s elimination of West African powerhouse Nigeria in the qualifiers, said while they were not going to Sudan to win, their opponents must know they would not be pushovers.
“I will be lying if I say we are going to Sudan to win. It will be another step in our study of high-level football. For a first outing for games of such level, we want to leave an impression, play our game, develop our football and measure up while meeting the best.
“We still have to learn. But let our opponents not believe we will be easy push- overs. That period has evolved for Niger’s football.
“I think that many people in the country began to regain confidence in our football which wasn’t the number one sport and began to think seriously about the Chan.
We will start with the Chan and it is very good this way. We now speak football in Niger,” Doula told Cafonline.