AFTER navigating their way past the group stages and Mali in the quarter-finals, the Warriors will seek an African Nations Championships (Chan) final spot this evening when they clash with Libya at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
BY WELLINGTON TONI
Kick-off is at 5pm.
The Warriors made their way to the last eight after scoring just one goal in the last group match against Burkina Faso following two goalless draws against Uganda and Morocco.
But they turned on the power against fancied Mali, beating them 2-1 with goals from Simba Sithole of How Mine and Kuda Mahachi as they continued writing their own piece of history in the competition.
In the last two editions in 2009 and 2011, the Warriors bowed out in the group stages.
The Warriors could be boosted by the return to training of Charles Sibanda, who missed the last match against Burkina Faso due to injury and is available for today’s encounter.
Team manager Sharif Mussa said the Highlanders-bound striker would be assessed by the medical team ahead of the match. They trained at the match venue at 5pm yesterday.
“He is on the road to recovery; he will be assessed today (yesterday) and then we will see what happens. We have some other knocks here and there, but nothing serious. The medical team is working on them and we have not ruled anyone out of the match,” Mussa said.
If Sibanda returns, it will provide coach Ian Gorowa with further attacking options, which have been a major source of worry in the group stages with only one goal scored.
The coach will not tinker with his back five — goalkeeper George Chigova, right-back Hardlife Zvirekwi, left-back Milton Ncube and the central defensive pairing of skipper Partson Jaure and Eric Chipeta.
Defensive shield Danny Phiri will anchor with Peter Moyo lining up in front of him in an attacking position.
Masimba Mambare and Kudakwashe Mahachi will take the wings while How Mine’s Simba Sithole and Sibanda or Ali Sadiki will lead the attack.
Zimbabwe had been due to play Libya in an international friendly match in early January, but the match was cancelled as the North Africans failed to secure airlines to Harare.
That could have given the Warriors insight into how they play.
But after Libya were stretched by Gabon in the quarter-finals (the match had ended 1-1 after extra time), they eventually won 4-2 on penalties, where they exhibited high levels of accuracy.
Faisal Mansour Ali, Mohamed Ghanudi, Elmutasem Abushnaf and Muataz Mahde Fadel converted four penalties in the 4-2 win while Gabon hit the post and the Libyan goalkeeper saved one to hand them victory.
This alone must not give the Warriors any sense of complacency that the match will be a walkover or that if it ends in a penalty shootout, they will win.
The Warriors need to sharpen their boots in front of goal and get that early goal that will unsettle the Libyans.
Said Mussa: “We have to make sure that complacency does not creep into the boys and we will be very wary of any onslaught by the Libyans.”