The Warriors’ 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) journey seems all but easy on paper, but Kaizer Chiefs’ Thomas Sweswe believes opponents Burundi will be a tricky affair.
The Warriors were drawn against the Sparrows in the second round of the qualifiers set for June next year and Sweswe believes Zimbabwe must leave nothing to chance if they are to make only their third appearance in the continental competition.
Zimbabwe, like Burundi, failed to make it to the 2012 finals, after falling 1-2 at the hands of Cape Verde in the final qualifier which they needed to win to snatch the sole ticket from Group A.
Instead, the Warriors lost, handing that ticket to Mali who had been held to a draw by Liberia in Monrovia on the same day.
Now faced with what looks like an easy match, Sweswe says Burundi have an equal chance to qualify as their football has improved in the last few years despite their failure to qualify for next year’s finals.
Burundi have not done better than Zimbabwe as they failed to qualify, withdrew from the qualifiers or simply decided not to enter.
They did not enter the competition between 1957 and 1974, failed to qualify in 1976 and decided against throwing their hat into the ring in 1978.
Between Zimbabwe’s Independence in 1980 and 2012, there was no luck for the Sparrows while the Warriors managed to make their debut in Tunisia in 2004 before another dance in Egypt — on both occasions failing to reach the knockout phase.
“It’s a tricky game because they have been improving the quality of their game in the last few years. If you look at their 2012 qualifiers, they lost 1-0 at home then 2-1 away to Ivory Coast and this shows we are going to play against a quality side.
“They have their captain Valery Nahayo, whom I played with and is playing very well in Belgium with other players from his country,” Sweswe said.
Besides Nahayo, who turns out for top- flight outfit Gent, they also have Dugary Ndabashinze and Omar Mussa, who play for Genk (top-flight) and SK Wilrijk in the provincial league respectively.
Saidi Ntibazonkiza turns out for Cracovia in the Polish Ekstraklasa, Kassim Bizimana plays for VV Sneek in Holland while goalkeeper Janvier Ndikumana turns out for Norwegian side Sandness Ulf. Other players are dotted in Rwandan and Tanzanian clubs.
The draw for Afcon 2013 was conducted last Friday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Sweswe said it was now time to start building and finding resources for the qualifiers and the 2014 World Cup.
He added that the next international friendly match against South Africa on November 15 in Harare must be the starting point.
The Warriors face a tough fight in their bid for a berth at the 2014 World Cup finals after drawing continental giants Egypt for the preliminary qualification campaign.
The Warriors must get past Guinea and either the Comoros or neighbours Mozambique.
“There must be resources to start building the team for the 2014 World Cup because there is a lot of potential in the youngsters we have in the team.
We also need quality friendly matches like the one coming up against South Africa and we need to have more as long as resources permit,” he said.
The international match has generated interest at Chiefs who will provide Sweswe, Zhaimu Jambo and Tinashe Nengomasha and now German-based former Chiefs star Knowledge Musona. Chiefs, on the other hand will have Siphiwe Tshabalala, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and perhaps the pair of Jimmy Tau and Bernard Parker playing for South Africa in the match.