All hail Warriors!

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CALL it a miracle or a Houdini act, the Warriors defied a 10-hour road journey, fatigue, a doubting nation and a clueless Zifa to kick off their 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon)football campaign with a 2-1 win over Malawi at Kamuzu Stadium on Saturday in a Group L match.

BY WELLINGTON TONI

The victorious Warriors will arrive at Harare International Airport at 10:40am today.

The events that led to the road trip are too embarrassing to be repeated. In a nutshell, like Chad, the Warriors missed their Thursday flight to Malawi due to a money row and had to travel by road to Malawi on Friday morning, arriving about 15 hours before kick-off.

Their Chadian counterparts did a Zimbabwe as well, missing their flight from France after a bonus row and a training kit that went missing!

Now is the time to savour the sweet victory by the gallant sons of Zimbabwe and hope that?

After 22 minutes of play, Swedish-bound Ronald Pfumbidzai flighted in a cross for Cuthbert Malajila who was running into the box.

Malawi defender Harry Nyirenda seemed to have it all covered, but miscued and the Mamelodi Sundowns striker was on hand with a left footer that stunned Kamuzu Stadium.

But Malawi responded after 60 seconds, benefiting from a poor clearance by Justice Jangano and John Banda was on hand to drive past Tatenda Mukuruva.

Then a goal made from the heavens — some say from coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s now famous blanket — again silenced Kamuzu Stadium.
Busy as a bee all afternoon, Khama Billiat flew on the left and let go what was intended to be a cross, but somehow it sailed past the keeper into the nets leaving him to collide against the goalpost.

Even Billiat could not believe it himself.

But that is the stuff that Zimbabwe are made of: Resilience under pressure!

In between, Mukuruva kept the Warriors in the game with brilliant saves, exuding confidence beyond his age and good command of his defence.

Midfielder Danny “Deco” Phiri paid tribute to Mukuruva.

“It was a tough match. Credit to our goalkeeper, he had a great game,” he told NewsDay Sport from Blantyre yesterday.

Zimbabwe’s next match is against Guinea on September 6 and hopefully Zifa will see sense and take the game to the more compact Rufaro Stadium and closer to fans.

Guinea lost their opening match 2-1 to Swaziland on Friday night, but Phiri says this is international football and anything can happen.

“International games are difficult. You can never rule out any team,” Phiri said.

The Warriors will then engage Swaziland in back-to-back clashes in March next year. On June 3-5, they will be home to Malawi and then the final qualifier will be away to Guinea on September 4.

It was coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s first win away in international football and also Zimbabwe’s first away win in an Afcon qualifier in 11 years.

Pasuwa told BBC Sport after the match: “We put our problems aside and we got a win. We need to bring Zimbabwean people together to help improve our football.

“We wanted to put our country on the map. We are having problems, but let’s consider our country in terms of football.”

In a statement yesterday, Zifa hailed the Warriors and Pasuwa for the win and paid tribute to a number of companies and individuals that made the trip a success.

National soccer team coach Kalisto Pasuwa wraps a blanket around him as the team prepares to leave for Malawi.
National soccer team coach Kalisto Pasuwa wraps a blanket around him as the team prepares to leave for Malawi.

“The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to congratulate the Warriors for raising the Zimbabwean flag high by defeating Malawi in the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifier match played at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday. The association is proud of coach Kalisto Pasuwa and the hardworking Warriors who defied all odds and emerged victorious.

“We appeal to various sponsors to partner the Warriors so that they qualify for the 2017 Afcon finals. We need to unite as a nation for the success of our national teams.

“The Association would like to thank the following individuals and organisations who partnered the Warriors ahead of their trip to Malawi: Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, Prophet (Walter) Magaya of PHD Ministries and his partners, Buymore Investments and Cuthbert Dube, Mimosa Mining Company, Munorurama (Pvt) Ltd, Malawi Airways, Tanganda Tea Company, Herentals College, Daisy Lodge and other donors who chose to remain anonymous.

“We appreciate the efforts and generosity of these individuals and organisations. It is with greatest sincerity and humility that we wish to extend our gratitude to these individuals and organisations for partnering the association in dire and painful moments. These important individuals and organisations gave a splendid service to their country. May God, the Almighty bless them and their loved ones.”

Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda, who played a role in convincing Pasuwa to release the team on Tuesday night after an impasse, congratulated the Warriors.

“I want to say congratulations to the Warriors. They have done us proud as Zimbabwe and again it shows that with unity of purpose we can win and football will always be a winner.

“Billiat scored a brilliant goal and did not celebrate alone, he celebrated with the rest of the country,” Sibanda said.

Board member finance Bernard Gwarada added: “We are happy with their achievements. We are resilient people.”

Man of the match: Tatenda Mukuruva

4 COMMENTS

  1. thanx to coach Marabundu and his team for putting up a well polished act in Malawi. I salute you guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. To say I was impressed by the performance is an understatement. I am out here in Middle East but was following the update on internet minute by minute. Please the powers that be do not mess up such a good start. The next game should see an even stronger warriors outfit. Start preparing for the match now. We want the last match to be insignificant to us because we will qualify paMalawi in Harare in June again. Please ndapota hangu musatipa BP nekutadza kuronga

  3. Nhai vanhu imi, Mungashamisike nekurova Malawi? Malawi its a team to beat mhani imi, Ko kuzoti mukarova Ghana yema 7 iyi, shuwa shuwa tingatoiteka holiday yekuti tadya Ghana or Berkina Faso, or Ivory coast, yeaa all these teams are beatable.

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