WARRIORS coach, Kalisto Pasuwa has picked the Warriors as one of the two football teams that would force their way out of Group B, widely regarded as the Group of Death at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN FRANCEVILLE, GABON
Pasuwa said confidence was flowing in his camp and they were looking forward to winning against a Senegalese side featuring stars plying their trade in some of Europe’s top leagues.
“If a coach goes into battle telling his players that he fears Senegal, that means you are defeated already,” he told reporters at a Press conference yesterday.
“We have the confidence. I have told the boys that we are going to be on top and that is what we will do. We are still the favourites of this group.”
Zimbabwe let off Algeria in a lively 2-2 draw in the opening group match on Sunday, in a performance that surprised and also won the hearts of many.
Pasuwa appears to be drawing confidence from his team’s performance in that match, where they showed unbelievable energy, great pace and skill.
And ahead of their crucial clash against Senegal tonight, Pasuwa has refused to accept the underdogs tag – just as he did in the build-up to the Algeria tie.
The Lions of Teranga were billed as one of the pre-tournament favourites and they showed their class when they defeated a fighting Tunisian side 2-nil on Sunday.
Pasuwa said they had drawn confidence from their first match and also from the way the fans appreciated the way they played.
“There is confidence in us from people watching and it pushes us to go an extra mile. Considering that at our last two appearances at Afcon we lost the opening matches, getting a draw has motivated the boys to go and play better than they did against Algeria,” he said.
While he revealed that his side would continue to play an aggressive and passing game, he said they were likely to come up with a different dimension.
“When playing against these type of teams, you need to be aggressive. We will play the same kind of football like they do. Some of our boys are small, so we will need to keep possession in order to get into the Senegal attacking third. The way we played against Algeria may not be the same way we play against the Lions of Teranga. We will bring another dimension, but there is no doubt that Senegal are going to be tough to break.”
The former Warriors midfielder said the technical team had done its homework and had a plan in place on how to hurt and also stifle the star-studded side.
Both teams will be targeting a win, which could thrust them into the next stage of the tournament.
Senegal go into the match sitting at the top of the log, with three points, while Zimbabwe and Algeria have a point apiece with Tunisia still to score points.
Warriors striker and vice-captain, Cuthbert Malajila, who could have sealed the match against Algeria, but missed a chance from point-blank range, echoed his coach’s sentiments that they were brimming with confidence going into tonight’s match, which kicks off at 9pm Zimbabwe time.
“As players, we are feeling good. We are prepared and we can’t wait. We did well in the last match, we have confidence and we believe in ourselves,” he told the Press conference.
“The nation is behind us. Back home, they say we are the golden generation and that alone helps our confidence. They know what we are capable of and we are raring to go.”
Senegal are equally expecting a tough match with centre-back, Kalidou Koulibaly, who plays for Italian giants, Napoli, calling on his fellow defenders to be on the constant lookout for the Warriors attackers.
“We feel good after the first match, you can imagine the mind-set. We are Senegal, we are not scared of any team.
We know the second set of matches will not be easy for any of the teams and we have prepared for that,” he said.
Unlike the Algerians, who seemed to think that their team would steamroll past Zimbabwe, the Senegal camp has exhibited some humility and respect for the Warriors.
Coach, Aliou Cisse insists he has treated preparations for Zimbabwe as he would have done for any other team.
“I have said all 16 teams at this tournament are good,” he said.
“Zimbabwe are a good team. I have watched them a lot of times. People have been surprised by Zimbabwe, but I am not surprised because I know they are good. They have been at the Afcon finals before, which shows how good they are. We are not worried about Zimbabwe calling themselves the favourites, we know what we can do.”
Senegal will also be featuring Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane, Stoke’s Biram Diouf and West Ham’s Chekou Kouyate.
Pasuwa is unlikely to tinker much with his team in tonight’s match with the returning Marvellous Nakamba the only change expected in the starting line-up.
The Netherlands-based midfielder missed the Algeria match serving suspension and he would reclaim his position from Danny Phiri, who did well against the Carthage Eagles.
With star man, Knowledge Musona out of this match through injury, Matthew Rusike is likely to continue holding fort.
Warriors probable 11
T Mukuruva, H Zvirekwi, C Nhamoinesu, E Muroiwa, O Bhasera, W Katsande, M Nakamba, E Rusike, K Mahachi, K Billiat, N Mushekwi