The Warriors will be seeking a semi-final slot when they take on Uganda in the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge quarter-final match in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, this afternoon.
Zimbabwe are under pressure to improve from the last showing at the tournament in 2009 when they failed to qualify for the semi-final stage, falling to eventual finalists Rwanda.
The Norman Mapeza-coached team has been blowing hot and cold in Tanzania, beating Djibouti 2-0 in the first match before falling to Rwanda by the same scoreline in the second.
They summoned their fighting spirit to overcome the hosts 2-1 in the decisive match on Saturday to make the last eight.
Much of the drab show, especially against Rwanda, has been blamed on misfortunes that continue to haunt the Warriors team.
The squad was hit by a bout of diarrhoea on arrival in Tanzania. Two players, Tongai Magwendere and goalkeeper Tapiwa Mafunga, were allegedly caught with prostitutes in their hotel room and were sent home.
The two remaining goalkeepers George Chigova and Ariel Sibanda have been playing with bandaged legs while Charles Sibanda is not 100% fit.
Despite all these adversities, the team has toiled this far and on the brink of making history in the tournament.
“We have had problems in camp, but still managed to qualify for the quarter-finals, which is an indication of a good fighting spirit in the team,” said Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare yesterday.
“When we came here the aim was not to win the competition, but we wanted some of these youngsters to gain experience. We are not looking much at the results, but at other positives which we can gain from here. Winning the tournament will be a bonus for us.”
Defensive midfielder Eric Mudzingwa, who has been used as a makeshift defender alongside captain Daniel Vheremu, is suspended after accumulating two yellow cards in games against Rwanda and Tanzania.
Midfielder Timire Mamvura will take over defensive responsibilities from Mudzingwa with James Jam moving into Mamvura’s anchoring slot.
Save for that slight change, Mapeza yesterday named a virtually unchanged team from the one that beat Tanzania.
With Vheremu and Mamvura at the heart of defence, Qadr Amini and Tapuwa Kumbuyani will take positions in the wing-backs. Joel Ngodzo, Cliff Sekete and Sibanda will form the heart of the team with the speedy duo of Benjamin Marere and Kutsanzira providing pace on the wings.
Bustling striker Donald Ngoma, who has scored two goals for the Warriors so far, will again lead the goal hunt.
Zimbabwe and Uganda have met 11 times with the Warriors winning four times, drawing six and losing once. That record alone will be enough inspiration for the team to win the match today.