AFTER an encouraging 1-1 friendly draw against Cameroon in Yaoundé on Tuesday evening, Warriors captain Willard Katsande declared his charges ready for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) football finals, which kick off in Gabon on Saturday.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Warriors, seen as the sick men of Group B, open their Afcon campaign against Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria on Sunday.
And to prepare for the
hugely-anticipated match, Zimbabwe played a friendly against a strong Indomitable Lions team, walking away with a commendable draw.
Katsande, who played the entire match on Tuesday, was impressed with the performance, declaring after the match that his team will not be push-overs as most football pundits might think.
“We are ready. Everyone will see us as the weakest team, but we do have the quality and we are ready to showcase our game. Our objective is to leave a mark at this competition. We are capable of progressing through to the next stage, which is our primary target. We will pick the positives out of this match (against Cameroon) and try to carry them into our opening match at the weekend,” he said.
Zimbabwe raced into an early lead when Tendai Ndoro latched onto a Cuthbert Malajila flick from a long goal-kick by Tatenda Mukuruva, before finding the back of the net.
The hosts were awarded a penalty in the 26th minute, after Elisha Muroiwa brought down Edgar Salli inside the box.
Benjamin Moukandjo stepped out to put the Indomitable Lions level.
The Warriors could have won the match right at the end when they broke on a counter attack, but Nyasha Mushekwi somehow missed a seater from a Knowledge Musona square pass.
“Cameroon were moving the ball very well. It was a good preparatory game for us, playing a powerhouse of African football. We will go back to the drawing board and look at one or two areas that we think need to be improved. One such area we need to sort is dealing with crosses inside the area. We need to improve because we will be playing against very tall opponents.”
Warriors coach, Kalisto Pasuwa was also happy with the performance in particular Kuda Mahachi, who he singled out for praise in his post-match comments.
Mahachi started the match ahead of star man, Khama Billiat, who was introduced in the second half.
“The boys played well, resisted the pressure from Cameroon and they were very unfortunate, they could have buried the game in the dying minutes. Cameroon are very good on the ball and they have a lot of movement on the wide areas. But we restricted them to some very few chances including the penalty that they scored,” Pasuwa said.
“This match wasn’t a matter of results only, but to see how we fare when playing against big teams in terms of solidity when defending. It’s another step forward in terms of our preparations for Gabon.
“The player (Mahachi) came through the youth ranks, he is a good boy offensively and defensively. He played a blinder today and we expect a lot more from him.”
Having failed to go beyond the group stages in their previous two participations at the Afcon, in 2004 and 2006, Pasuwa is looking to do better this time around.
“Our aim now is to qualify for the quarter-finals and we will take it from there,” he said.
The Warriors gaffer said his players had put the row over their match fees behind them and were looking forward to their opening match.
Zimbabwe are expected to arrive in Gabon today ahead of the Algeria contest in Franceville. They will take on Senegal on Thursday before concluding their group matches against Tunisia four days later.
How Zimbabwe lined up against Cameroon
T Mukuruva, O Bhasera (B Kangwa, 57’), E Muroiwa, C Nhamoinesu, H Zvirekwi (O Machapa, 70’), W Katsande, D Phiri, K Mahachi (K Billiat, 66’), E Rusike (M Rusike, 75’), T Ndoro (K Musona, 66’), C Malajila (N Mushekwi, 66’)