MIGHTY Warriors have a golden opportunity to become the first Zimbabwean football team to reach the Olympics finals when they face Cameroon in a 2016 Rio Olympics final round qualifier in Yaoundé today.
BY HENRY MHARA
To enhance this prospect, the Shadreck Mlauzi-coached side must deny their hosts the sort of result, which would enable the African powerhouse to rest easy before the second leg in Harare in a fortnight.
Today’s match takes place at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in the Cameroon capital, and will kick-off at 5pm Zimbabwean time.
A win for the visitors, though far from impossible, is unlikely.
Even a narrow defeat against the 2015 World Cup finalists and the 2015 African Games silver medal winners would not be a disaster, but Zimbabwe need an away goal.
The winner of the tie will qualify for the Olympic finals in Rio next year as one of Africa’s two representatives at the showpiece.
Mlauzi, who led his charges out of Harare yesterday morning, is confident of causing an upset against the favourites.
The team was initially scheduled to leave on Thursday, but failed to take off due to Zifa’s bungling and the government had to release funds late yesterday to enable the team to travel.
“We are playing a very good side, one of the best teams in Africa. We have great respect for them, but we have a very good chance. The chances are 50/50 and the team that will apply good tactics will win the match. At this level of the game, it’s all about tactics, and nothing more,” he said.
Mlauzi’s team will take encouragement from the fact that they are facing a side that, for all their prestige and pedigree, lost to Ghana in the African Games finals last month
The Mighty Warriors played the same Ghana team in the African Games qualifier earlier this year, managing a 2-1 result in Accra before drawing 2-2 at home.
More inspiring for the Mighty Warriors is the news that Cameroon will be missing their star player Deborah Enganamouit for today’s match.
Media reports from Yaoundé indicate that the 23-year-old ginger-haired player, who was the team’s best player at the 2015 Canada World Cup, could not join camp after her Swedish club Eskilstuna declined to release her.
In Canada, Enganamouit’s unnerving drive and powerful style led to her being fondly called “Freight Train” by fans. She led Cameroon to a last-16 finish, where they narrowly lost 1-0 to losing finalists Japan.
But even without Enganamouit, the Lionesses still looks intimidating with 17 of the players in the squad playing professional football in Europe.
Cameroon progressed to the final qualifier after beating Ghana on the away goals rule whereas the Mighty Warriors qualified after the disqualification of Ivory Coast.
Mighty Warriors squad
C Dzingirai, L Magwede, S Makoto, L Mutokuto, N Majika, E Msipa, R Kapfumvuti, R Neshamba, E Jeke, M Nyaumwe, F Muzongondi, E Chibanda, S Moyo, A Bhamu, C Muhara, F Chasi, R Makore, V Ndlovu.