ZIMBABWE were yesterday drawn against Morocco, Burkina Faso and Uganda for the 2014 African Nations Championships (Chan) finals that will be held in South Africa early next year and Warriors assistant coach Mkhuphali Masuku immediately declared it as “a fair draw.”
Sixteen teams, including hosts South Africa, entered the draw, which was conducted by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) secretary-general Hicham El Amrani in Cairo, Egypt.
The tournament, which is viewed as a developmental one and is reserved for locally based players only, will kick-off on January 11 and run until February 1.
All the teams, with the exception of South Africa, were ranked based on their performances during the last two editions of the Chan competition in 2009 (Cote d’Ivoire) and 2011 (Sudan) and zonal considerations.
The four seeded teams were South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Pot Two was made up of Gabon, Mali, Libya and Uganda. Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ethiopia and Nigeria were in Pot Three while Congo Brazzaville, Mauritania, Morocco and Mozambique made up Pot Four.
The Ian Gorowa coached side managed to avoid continental giants like Nigeria and Mali who were pooled in Group A together with the hosts and Mozambique — arguably the Group of Death — and Masuku could be forgiven for describing the draw as fair for Zimbabwe.
“I’m not underestimating our opponents here. We will face a team like Morocco whose real national team is made up of local players and Uganda who have a very good junior policy. Uganda have been doing well at this tournament, but if you look closely at other groups, personally I think it’s a fair draw. It’s not the toughest of the groups, but it is also not the easiest,” noted Masuku.
The Chicken Inn assistant coach said the Warriors have the potential to win this tournament if the necessary attention is given to the team’s preparations.
“In terms of quality, I think we are at the same level with all the other countries and we can compete with any other country on the continent. But, we need to prepare well if we are to realise and achieve our target at the tournament. Our objective is to win this tournament and I trust we have good enough players to do it. We should go into camp early, maybe two weeks after the conclusion of the Premier League season so that we can prepare well. The season should finish at the end of November so we should have enough time,” Masuku added.
Masuku, was, however, quick to single out Morocco as the Warriors’ biggest threat in their group.
The Warriors’ last meeting with the North Africans was in the 2008 African Nations Cup qualifiers. The two teams played a 1-1 draw in Harare before Morocco won the reverse fixture 2-0.
Zimbabwe will play their games at Cape Town’s Athlone Stadium and the outcome of their matches will determine where next they would be playing.
Group A teams will also be based in Cape Town with the opening match between South Africa and Mozambique set for Cape Town Stadium.
Ghana lead Group C and should not have many problems in progressing to the next stage, with Libya looking like the only opponents that can give the West Africans a headache.
Group D looks the easiest on paper with the Democratic Republic of Congo (seeded) set to face Mauritania, Burundi and Gabon.
Yesterday’s ceremony was graced by Caf president Issa Hayatou and members of the Caf executive committee and chairman of the organising committee, Almamy Kabele while Zifa president Cuthbert Dube, his vice Ndumiso Gumede and CEO Jonathan Mashingaidze, Gorowa and Warriors manager Sharif Mussa were also in attendance.
The Warriors qualified for the third successive tournament
after beating Zambia 1-0 on aggregate in the final qualifier last month via a Charles Sibanda 63rd minute strike after the two teams had drawn 0-0 in the first leg at Rufaro.
The Warriors previously qualified for the inaugural tournament in Ivory Coast in 2009 under Sunday Chidzambwa before the 2011 edition under Madinda Ndlovu in Sudan and on both occasions failed to make the knockout stage.
The Full Draw:
Group A: South Africa, Mozambique, Nigeria, Mali (Cape Town stadium, CT)
Group B: Zimbabwe, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Uganda (Athlone Stadium, CT)
Group C: Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Libya (Mangaung Stadium, Mangaung)
Group D: DRC, Mauritania, Burundi, Gabon (Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane)