WARRIORS captain Masimba Mambare has described the African Nations Championships (Chan) draw in Cairo on Wednesday as balanced and expressed confidence the team would surpass their achievements in the previous two editions of the tournament in 2009 and 2011.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The Warriors earned a seat at the continental tournament to be held in South Africa in January after defeating Zambia in the last qualifying round.
It’s the third successive time Zimbabwe will be taking part at the tournament in which only home-based players compete.
They have qualified for the finals of the tournament since its inauguration in 2009 after taking part in Ivory Coast and Sudan two years later, but they have not managed to negotiate past the group stages.
Sunday Chidzambwa shepherded the Warriors at the tourney in Ivory Coast with Madinda Ndlovu taking charge in Sudan in 2011.
But Mambare believes the current crop has what it takes to go as far as the final.
“I think the draw is balanced. We can’t say we would have preferred to be in this or that group because from what I see it’s all the same. Nowadays we can not underestimate any team,” said Mambare.
The Highlanders forward also said the Warriors would not be affected even if some players were to get contracts outside the country.
He said in his opinion, Zimbabwe has a lot of talent and will have enough cover in the event of some players leaving the country before the tournament.
“In my opinion, Zimbabwe has a lot of talent and I don’t think it will have an effect because we will still have enough cover should some players get contracts elsewhere outside the country. It does not mean that those who get signed by foreign clubs are necessarily better than those that remain. If I get signed by a foreign club, there will always be capable replacements,” said Mambare.
Zimbabwe who were seeded during the draw were pitted against Morocco, Uganda and Burkina Faso in Group D.
Uganda coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, said the draw makes the group the most competitive Speaking to Daily Monitor, the Serbian said while they are set for the task come January; it will be no mean feat since the teams in Group B make the pool “the most competitive” of the lot.
“All the teams in our group have good competitive leagues,” he said.
“Zimbabwe’s coach Ian Gorowa is a very good coach and has organised his team since taking over in July.
“Morocco, coached by respected Rachid Taoussi, are using the tournament in South Africa as a stepping stone for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by them. So they are taking it very seriously.”
Micho, who has won five of his eight games with The Cranes since succeeding Scotsman Bobby Williamson in May added: “Burkina Faso reached the finals of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations and are very competitive back home and will give us the competition we need. I could say ours is a group of death. But in the same moment we have prepared for all this, we have the commitment and conviction to go there and compete. We shall use the Cecafa tournament in December to get even better.
“Our first aim in South Africa is to pass the group stage,” added Micho, “After that, anything is possible.”
Micho is, however, aware of the disastrous debut Uganda endured in the 2011 edition in Sudan, where they lost all their group matches.
“Definitely, our aim is to do better than we did in 2011,” he said.
The championship will be hosted in South African cities of Cape Town, Mangaung and Polokwane with Group D teams based in Cape Town.