WARRIORS star Khama Billiat says the team has no fears about facing the fancied Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the Group G qualifier next month, insisting he is relishing the prospect of meeting the group favourites.
BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe currently lead the group with four points after easing past Liberia 3-0 at home last year in the opening Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier before picking a precious point away in Congo Brazzaville on Sunday.
However, the Sunday Chidzambga-coached side, who arrived back home yesterday from Brazzaville, face the biggest test of their campaign when they clash with second-placed DRC in back-to-back matches early next month.
The Warriors travel to Kinshasa on October 10, before hosting DRC in Harare three days later, in two matches that could well make or destroy Zimbabwe’s hopes of making a quick return to Africa’s premier football tournament.
Speaking to the media after touching down at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday afternoon, Billiat, who scored the Warriors’ solitary goal on Sunday, said he is aware of the threat posed by DRC whose stars are scattered across Europe, and playing in some of the world’s top clubs.
“The team that need it the most on the day will get the result. If we are going to need it more than them, in spite of their players and whoever plays for them, we still stand a better chance of winning the matches. We just need to be mentally and physically strong. We have to make sure that we come here for one purpose, which is to help each other and make sure that we qualify again,” Billiat said.
“We know how big it is to qualify for Afcon. The feeling never leaves you. We still have it, and it feels like it happened yesterday.”
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DRC — who boast of such stars as Cedric Bakambu, one of the top goal scorers in the Chinese Super League, former Chelsea midfielder Gael Kakuta now with La Liga side Rayo Vallecano and FC Porto striker Chancel Mbemba — are second in Group G after their 3-1 win over Congo last year, which they followed up with a shock 1-1 draw away to Liberia at the weekend.
Some of their regulars include Everton’s Yannick Bolasie, Junior Kabananga of Astana and Stoke City forward Benik Afobe.
Surprisingly, all the above mentioned stars did not make the squad that travelled to Liberia, but there is little doubt that they would be called in for the Warriors match.
“It will be tough, we will need everyone to be focussed, and put all for the country. We are looking forward to it. We will make sure that we are in the right shape for the upcoming match,” Billiat reckons.
The Kaizer Chiefs striker said the team is disappointed to get a point in a match that they should have won, had they converted the chances that they created.
“Its not a result that we wanted, but its something that we can take. We are happy because we played better and created chances, which we can rectify in the future. We are happy with the performance of the team, we moving in the right direction. We have to soldier on, and make sure we collect as many points as we can in the next matches.”
Billiat passed a late fitness test to feature in the match and he revealed yesterday that he was only 80% fit when he played at the weekend.
Zimbabwe missed some good chances to wrap up the match, especially in the first half which the visitors totally controlled. The second half belonged to the home side. Billiat also spoke about the super team goal he scored, which many has described as work of art.
Picking the ball in his half, Billiat exchanged a pass with Kuda Mahachi before he fed striker Evans Rusike, who returned the ball to the former to pick out Warriors skipper Knowledge Musona on the wide.
Musona, realising that he was at an acute angle, squared the ball to Billiat who was just arriving in the box to easily tap it home.
“I’m surrounded by good players who are always in the right positions, and they give me options. Musona gave it (ball) back, European style [giggles] and it was so easy for me. Everyone was on the move, fast, as the coach would have wanted it. Football is always easy when you pass and move, and that is what happened. I’m happy for everyone.”
Congo Brazzaville and Liberia have a point each. Two teams from the group qualify for the Afcon finals to be hosted by Cameroon in January next year.