France-based midfielder Ovidy “Masvingo Mosquito” Karuru believes the Warriors will qualify for the 2012 African Cup of Nations football finals to be hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The Warriors revived their slim hopes of qualifying for the finals after a convincing 3-0 victory over a battling Liberia at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, with Karuru dishing out yet another outstanding performance.
The Masvingo-born star, who single-handedly destroyed Mali at Rufaro last June, was at his usual best again on Sunday as he provided the assist that led to the opener by Willard Katsande.
He headed home the second one, connecting a Tafadzwa Rusike cross from the left and was also instrumental in the third goal, providing the killer pass for the galloping right-back Gilbert Mapemba whose cross was converted by rising star Khama Billiat.
The result catapulted Zimbabwe into second position in Group A with eight points, just a point behind new group leaders Mali, who assumed the top position after whacking early pacesetters Cape Verde 3-0 in Bamako on Saturday night.
The islanders tumbled down to third position with seven points while Liberia are out of contention for a spot in Africa’s premier soccer showpiece with a paltry four points.
From the weekend results, Mali now hold the aces and are well poised to clinch the Group A ticket to the finals as they just need to get three points away in Liberia next month.
Zimbabwe can also make it to the finals if they beat Cape Verde in Praia and hope for the best from the Mali-Liberia match.
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There is also room that the Warriors can gatecrash into the finals via the two slots reserved for the best runners-up.
However, one of the slots will definitely fall in Group I where either Sudan or Ghana will go through.
The two countries are neck-and-neck in their group after having collected 13 points each with one round of group matches left.
The maximum Zimbabwe can get if they beat Cape Verde are 11 points.
Other teams that are vying for the remaining runners-up slot are Libya, who are second in Group C after having already amassed 11 points.
Central African Republic, Cameroon and Sierra Leone are also second in their respective groups and vying for the same slot as they are tied on eight points.
The permutations above clearly show that the destiny is no longer in Zimbabwe’s hands, but Karuru has refused to throw in the towel as yet.
“It’s no longer in our hands, but we have to remain hopeful. We have to remain positive and win our last match in Cape Verde and hope for the best in the other game. Who knows, Liberia can beat Mali and we can still qualify. This is football and the unexpected can happen. They have beaten Cape Verde before, so what can stop them from doing the same to Mali?” the optimistic Karuru said.
Karuru, just like many Zimbabweans, believes the 0-0 draw against Cape Verde last October dented the Warriors’ chances of making it to the finals, but said the nation should remain positive.
The 22-year-old did not take part in that unforgettable afternoon at the National Sports Stadium.
“I just hope it will not haunt us at the end, we could have been at the top of the log now if we had not drawn that game. In these qualifiers you have to collect as many points as possible at home and then try to get at least a point away. We had started very well with a draw to Liberia and we should have won at home against Liberia, but we can’t continue to cry over spilt milk. We have to accept reality, beat Cape Verde away and hope for the best in Liberia,” the lanky midfielder added.
However, from the way Liberia played at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday, there is very little to suggest that they are capable of upsetting the Malians who will be desperate to get all the three points.
The fact that Liberia will be playing for nothing other than their pride makes it even more complicated for Zimbabwe.