AFTER the humiliation of the Warriors in the Cosafa Cup on Thursday, focus immediately shifts to both the Mighty Warriors and the Young Warriors as they begin the first steps towards qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics tomorrow when they face Zambia and Swaziland respectively.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Mighty Warriors left for Zambia yesterday afternoon for the first leg match at the Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka, seeking not just to get a good start to their Olympic journey, but also looking to compensate for their failure to qualify for the All-Africa Games last month.
More so, revenge would be uppermost in the minds of the Rosemary Mugadza-coached side in this contest as they face a team that bundled them out of last year’s African Women’s Championships.
The return leg is next weekend in Harare.
Mugadza announced the travelling squad yesterday morning, keeping faith in the squad that narrowly lost the All-Africa Games qualifiers 4 – 3 on aggregate to the Black Queens of Ghana last month. Striker Rudo Neshamba who had a knock was certified fit and was included in the travelling squad.
The last time the Mighty Warriors and the Shepolopolo Queens of Zambia met was on June 8 last year in the second and final leg of the African Women Championship qualifier with the latter claiming a 1-0 win to complete a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Defender Helen Mubanga scored a goal in both legs for the comfortable win.
Mugadza believes that is now water under the bridge as she looks to lead her side in what remains the team’s only major qualifiers to play for this year after their failure in the All-Africa Games.
“It’s a new ball game altogether. We have done our best in the circumstances in terms of preparations and we hope that we can win and progress to the next stage. We will be cautious, but try to get a good result and then finish them off when they come here for the return leg, but the chances are 50/50,” said Mugadza.
If the Mighty Warriors progress to the next stage, they will face the winner between Ivory Coast and Tunisia.
Zimbabwe faced Tunisia in 2011 in a friendly match played in Egypt, winning the match 1-0 courtesy of a goal by Felistas Muzongondi. The Mighty Warriors have never faced Ivory Coast before.
The task becomes even more daunting for the Mighty Warriors if they progress past this stage, as they will face the winner of the matches involving Egypt/Ghana and winner of Guinea Bissau/Liberia versus Cameroon in the fourth and final qualifying round.
The winner of the final qualifying round will join the other winner from the other qualifying group as Africa’s two representatives at the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio.
The Young Warriors’ journey is not that tough although poor preparations could be their major undoing.
The journey starts as an Under-23 African Championships qualifier which will culminate in the Rio Olympics. They first host Swaziland at Rufaro Stadium tomorrow before the return leg at the Somhlolo Stadium next weekend.
If the Kalisto Pasuwa-coached side goes through, they will face South Africa in the final qualifying round.
The winners proceed to the December 5 to 19 2015 finals in Senegal, from where the top-three finishers will automatically qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games while the fourth-placed team will engage a team from the Asian Football Confederation in a play-off.
But preparations for the Sunday match have not gone particularly well with Pasuwa forced to train with a depleted side, which had only one goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya.
Only 15 players trained on Thursday after Chicken Inn withdrew two of their players Lawrence Mhlanga and Raphael Kutinyu for their Premiership clash against Hwange this afternoon.
Mamelodi Sundowns star Kuda Mahachi who was expected in camp on Thursday has also excused himself due to family problems while vice-captain Ronald Pfumbidzai is still in Europe on trials.
The Under-23 technical bench was yesterday making frantic efforts to get goalkeeper Bernard Donovan into camp.
Donovan was part of the Warriors squad that lost at the Cosafa Championships in South Africa on Thursday. He was expected back in Harare later yesterday and is likely to start in tomorrow’s match.
The goalkeeping crisis exemplifies Pasuwa’s situation in the defensive department. Of all the defenders that produced heroics against Cameroon in the All-Africa Games, only one is in camp after teams withdrew their players.
The match is not on the Fifa calendar, hence clubs’ refusal to release their players. And Pasuwa has warned that there shouldn’t be any blame game in the event that his team fails to get a desirable result tomorrow.