BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS vice-captain Ovidy Karuru believes his team need to score an early goal to settle their nerves in their do-or-die Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G qualifier against a tricky Congo Brazzaville side at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Zimbabwe, who top the group with eight points, need to avoid a defeat in the match to seal qualification to the finals set for Egypt in June.
Their Sunday opponents are bottom of the group with five points, but an outright win for them will see them snatching one of the two allotted tickets to the finals.
As expected, the match has attracted so much attention, and the fans’ anxiety is growing as the big day draws closer.
The star midfielder admitted that the players are feeling the same, and he reckons an early goal would help avoid a difficult afternoon for the home team and their expectant supporters.
“It will be a difficult match for both teams because of the stakes at hand. What we need is to get an early goal to calm our nerves, and also more importantly to get the twelfth man behind us. If we manage to get the supporters behind us, there is no way we can fail to get the result we want. When the home supporters get behind their team, it gives pressure on the opponent and that would be good for us. This is what we have been preaching to ourselves in camp. But remember this is a very crucial match, and obviously there is so much anxiety, so players will make mistakes. The fans need to rally behind us no matter what,” Karuru said.
Morale in the Warriors camp was boosted yesterday when a top clothing company 4May, unveiled a sponsorship for the team where they dressed members of the squad with designer suits.
“These are the little things that matter, and thanks to the sponsor we are smart and very happy. We really appreciate this gesture, and we want to thank all our sponsors who have been helping us. It gives us the drive to do well. As you can see everyone is happy, the morale is high and everyone knows the importance of the game. Everyone is pushing at training, and wants to play in this match. We are playing at home, and we all want to do well in front of our home supporters.”
Karuru missed the reverse fixture in Brazzaville, which ended in a 1-1 draw, because of an injury.
But since his recovery, he has returned into the team’s fold, and played in the last two qualifiers at home against the Democratic Republic of Congo and away in Liberia.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t go to Brazzaville because I was injured, but from what I watched on television, there are a beatable side. If we can move the ball faster I think we will trouble them because I noticed they are a bit slow, especially at the back. We will need quick movement in front and I am sure we will catch them. The good thing is that we have players to do that, so we have a very good chance,” Karuru noted.
The Amazulu midfielder is likely to keep his place in the starting eleven, but there is stiff competition for the jersey, with his fellow club mate Butholezwe Ncube making a genuine case for himself for selection.
Zimbabwe leads the group with eight points, followed by Liberia on seven. DRC has six, while Brazzaville has five.
So open is the group that all the four teams will go into their final matches at the weekend with a chance of winning the two qualifying slots.
If the Warriors avoid a defeat on Sunday, they will go through together with either DRC or Liberia, who face-off on the same day in Kinshasa.
Chidzambga’s men can still qualify even with a defeat, but only if the match in Kinshasa ends in a draw.