So, this is it. The dream final.
The 2011 Cosafa Women Championships is down to just two teams as Zimbabwe takes on defending champions South Africa at Rufaro stadium Saturday afternoon for the regional women football biggest prize.
In many ways it’s the final everyone was hoping for since the start of the competition last Saturday, pitting the practical, yet effective Banyana Banyana against an efficient force called the Mighty Warriors.
Ask any soccer enthusiasts who have been following this year’s edition of the competition and will tell you their dream has been realised.
Enroute to the final, there was plenty of excitement for both sides as they brushed off anyone who dared come their way with crude brutality.
Both teams were fairly untroubled in the early stages of the tournament, finishing top in their groups and thus managed to avoid each other at the semi-final stage.
The hosts commenced with a 4-0 drubbing of Lesotho, which was followed by an 8-2 trouncing of Malawi before a 3-0 victory over Mozambique.
It was at the semi-final stage, when the Mighty Warriors faced what almost proved to be their match when they battled to a goalless draw against a disciplined Tanzanian side but eventually edged the East African country 4-2 in a nail-biting penalty shootout.
As for Banyana Banyana, they beat Zambia 4-2, outplayed Botswana 4-0 before scrapping to a 1-0 win over Tanzania. An out-of sorts Malawi was awaiting them in the semi-finals and as expected, the defending champions romped to a 5-1 victory.
While the hosts may be free-scoring after having banged 15 goals in three matches, Banyana Banyana has remained solid especially their back four, with centre-back Janine Van Wyk particularly imposing in co-existence with the team’s overall selfless play and hard work all over the pitch.
Banyana Banyana are the region’s women football powerhouses and the Mighty Warriors proving to be an emerging force to reckon with.
The two teams wield plenty of star power, but two names stand above the rest – the speedy Noku Matlou for South Africa and the powerful Rufaro Machingura for the hosts.
These are two players who grab all the headlines and command all the attention because of their scoring prowess.
Machingura has banged seven goals so far while Matlou has four to her credit. The duo is thus banked on to produce that moment of magic for their teams today.
But naturally, Zimbabwe is more than Machingura and South Africa is not just Matlou. There are other talented individuals in the two heavyweights.
The likes of Marjory Nyaumwe, who was in the true sense of the word awesome in the win against Tanzania and the composed Talent Mandaza pull the strings in Rosemary Mugadza’s possession-oriented formation, while captain Amanda Dlamini brings that extra touch of class to Joseph Mkhonza’s Banyana side.
Zimbabwe will however have to do without roving right back Eunice Chibanda who was shown a straight red card for professional foul in the semi-final match on Thursday.
Mugadza and Mkhonza will be looking for their first Cosafa glory, and that alone could be enough to spruce up the encounter.
Mugadza was the captain of the classy Mighty Warriors team of 2002 who fell to South Africa 2-1 in the finals of the same competition at Rufaro Stadium and will want to banish those horrorific memories with a win today while Mkhonza only joined the national team last year.
The two coaches met for the first time late last year in a double-header friendly with Mkhonza winning both duels in convincing fashion but Mugadza will always argue that was then, the proposition is just different this time around.
Mkhonza’s team already have the status as the greatest women football nation in the region and will be naturally big favourites to win the trophy today.
The Mighty Warriors on the other hand, are emerging as a potent force in women football and will be under pressure to win the tournament on home soil.
That said, this afternoon’s clash promises nothing other than a thriller of a match.