THE Warriors, still reeling from an embarrassing exit from the latest Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) will begin their quest for the 2017 continental football edition in June, followed by the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers in October.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) confirmed the dates following the executive committee held last week.
In a statement on their official website yesterday, Caf said: “The Caf Executive Committee has approved the format of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, following its meeting on January 14 2015.
The host country of the 2017 edition shall be announced on April 8 2015 after the Caf Ordinary General Assembly in Cairo, Egypt.
“The qualifiers for the 31st edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will begin in June 2015 using the two dates fixed by Fifa, 08-16 June.
“For the first time, the host country will participate in the qualifying stages; though the matches concerned will not be computed for points, they shall count as friendlies.
“Fifty-two (52) teams will be engaged. They will be divided into 13 groups of 4 teams each. The first from each group shall qualify for the final stage, as well as the best two runners-up, exclusive of the group of the host country, which only one team will qualify.
“Also, if due to the withdrawal of one team and a group happens to be left with just three teams, this group will not be considered when determining the best second team.
“The draws for the groups shall be done on April 8 2015 in Cairo, immediately after the announcement of the host country of the 2017 edition.
“Also, the Caf Executive Committee has approved the format for the qualifiers of the 2018 Fifa World Cup to be hosted in Russia.
“The competing teams will have to go through three preliminary rounds in order to bring the number of teams down to 20 so as to be able to constitute five (5) groups of four teams, where the first from each group will qualifier for the World Cup.
“The preliminaries of the Fifa World Cup shall begin during the two Fifa dates in October 2015, given that the draws shall take place on July 25 2015 at Saint-Petersburg in Russia.”
Zifa has presented a $3,2 million budget to the government for its national teams for the Afcon, World Cup, All-Africa and Olympic Games qualifiers, but with little support from the State, chances are the Warriors will struggle again in terms of preparations.
In the ongoing Afcon finals in Equatorial Guinea, the Warriors bombed out in the preliminary stage, falling 1-0 to Tanzania in the first leg away before managing a 2-2 home draw against the Taifa Stars which knocked them out.
That led to the resignation of coach Ian Gorowa and the subsequent disbanding of the senior national teams with focus turning to the Under-23 side, coached by Kalisto Pasuwa.
But Pasuwa, a four-time in a row championship winner with Dynamos, knows the job at hand is no easy stroll and is crying out for friendly matches to prepare his new team for the All-Africa Games and Olympic qualifiers.
The All-Africa Games will be held in Congo Brazzaville in September while the African Under-23 Championship are slated for the DRC in December where the top three sides will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games.
Zimbabwe have been paired with Swaziland in the qualifiers first round of the All-Africa Games on the weekend of February 20-22 away in Mbabane before the return leg in Harare two weeks later.
Next up, if they beat Swaziland, will be Cameroon in the second round.
The Young Warriors will face Swaziland again in the African Under-23 Championship preliminary round on the weekend of April 24/26 with South Africa, who received a bye, lying in wait should Zimbabwe progress.
If they beat South Africa, Senegal will be their next opponents.
Zimbabwean football is at an all-time low with some obscure organisation fronted by Francis Zimunya and Paddington Japajapa petitioning the Sports, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa to dissolve the Zifa board and install a so-called “normalisation committee”.
This petition has been dismissed by Zifa as the work of enemies of football bent on destabilising a constitutionally-elected board.
There is also an unsigned memo addressed to Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and his deputy Omega Sibanda by some “disgruntled” members of the board calling for a return to proper football administration.
However, some board members that NewsDay Sport spoke to on Thursday have distanced themselves from the memo.