WARRIORS’ defender Tendai Darikwa is relishing the prospect of a potential duel with Everton’s on loan attacker Yannick Bolasie when Zimbabwe clash with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Group G back-to-back matches of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Darikwa, who plays for English second tier side Nottingham Forest, may be asked to take care of the sleek and slippery Bolasie who may be deployed on the left side of DRC’s attack.
Bolasie is currently playing for Aston Villa in the same Division with Darikwa.
Darikwa, who will be making his competitive debut for the Warriors, is not worried about the reputations in the DRC line-up and he told NewsDaySport yesterday that the Warriors will approach the match with bravery.
If DRC deploy Bolasie to the left wing, which is highly likely, it will set up an interesting duel between him and Darikwa who is also renowned for his pace.
While the two are in the same league, they have not yet faced each other this season, but Bolasie has been failing to knuckle down a starting berth.
DRC also have Jacques Maghoma who plays in the same league at Birmingham City, alongside Arthur Masuaka and Benik Afobe who turn out for West Ham and Stoke City respectively.
DRC coach Florent Ibeng has also recalled FC Porto defender Chancel Mbemba as well as China-based striker Cedric Bakambu.
Some of the big guns that have also been recalled are former Chelsea star Gael Kakuta, now playing for La Liga side Roya Vallecano.
But the Nottingham Forest defender is not intimidated at the prospects of facing Bolasie and several other Europe-based stars.
“They’ve got good players but these are the players that play in the same division as me back home. So it’s nothing new to me to be up against them, but we are all aware that we’ve got a lot of talent in our squad. We won’t worry too much about them, we will let them worry about us,” Darikwa said.
He acknowledged that the Warriors face a tough game in Kinshasa, but remained confident that they can get a result.
“I think it’s two important games, two big games. Coming here, I knew it’s going to be difficult, especially the away game. They also got a lot of good players, some play in top European leagues, but we are going there without fear and we will be brave. Hopefully we will get results that the country wants.”
Darikwa said he was excited to be finally making his competitive debut for the team having been involved in friendlies before as he regularised his citizenship.
“It’s exciting to be finally playing for my country. These are two big games and I am here to represent and try to help the team qualify for Afcon. We will work hard as a team and the fans will see my passion,” he said.
Zimbabwe and DRC are tied at the top of the group standings with four points each after two rounds of matches, although the former enjoy a superior goal difference.
Group G also features Congo Brazzaville and Liberia, who have a point each, making the top of the group clash between the Warriors and the Leopards very crucial in determining the group’s two teams that will qualify for the Afcon finals in Cameroon next year.
The Warriors were scheduled to leave for DRC last night and will play their opponents on Saturday before hosting them in Harare on Tuesday night.
Two top teams from the group qualify for the January finals.