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Be afraid, Liberia

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Liberia call themselves the Lone Star and indeed they will be lonely when they collide with the Warriors in a decisive African Cup of Nations qualifier match at the imposing National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

The West Africans will virtually throw themselves into the lion’s den.

Norman Mapeza’s men, who forced a draw against the same opponents in the reverse fixture in Monrovia a year ago, will be looking to finish off the West Africans who anchor Group A with four points.

The draw in Monrovia did not come on a silver platter.

Soon after their arrival aboard a chartered flight, the Warriors were checked into a dingy hotel located near the Atlantic Ocean where there was neither electricity nor water.

The restless Warriors were only calmed by Mapeza who reminded them then that it was a common psychological strategy to unsettle opponents in African soccer.

They soldiered on, but as if that was not enough, just a day before the match at the Samuel Doe Sports Complex, Zimbabwe were subjected to more spite by the Liberians when, in an apparent act of sabotage, the locals punctured the tyres of the Warriors’ team bus after their final training session at the match venue.

The Warriors then had to travel back to their hotel in batches on open trucks after the intervention of some Zimbabwe police details who were on United Nations duty in that country. Again the Warriors went without water and electricity after this ordeal.

Mapeza’s men eventually got a decent bath after they were transferred to a modest hotel which met the Confederation of African Football standards.
Still the Warriors managed a draw against the background of this torment.

Tomorrow the Warriors go into thematch from the comfort of their home fully aware they will be backed by thousands of home fans who are expected to throng the giant stadium from all corners of the country despite the exorbitant gate charges.

The Warriors have hit a purple patch of late and have been soaring in the Fifa rankings where they are now rated the 74th best team in the world and 17th in Africa.

They attained the dizzy heights after felling two African giants, Mali and Zambia, in their last two assignments. They beat Mali 2-1 in June before accounting for Zambia 2-0 at Rufaro Stadium last month in an international friendly.

If Mapeza’s team are to replicate the same form they displayed against the two giants, then there is no stopping them overrunning the Liberians.

Liberia are ranked 31st in Africa and are poor travellers in this competition after losing 2-1 away to Mali and 4-2 to leaders Cape Verde.

The Warriors will be the first team not to overcome the Liberians at home if they fail to beat them at the National Sports Stadium.

A win will leave Zimbabwe with eight points and condemn the visitors to an exit from the tournament set for Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Mapeza will be praying that Cape Verde get a draw or win against Mali in Bamako to set up a must-win game against the former away to the islanders.

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