BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA/Cliff chiduku
AFTER the Warriors sealed their place at the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt by beating Congo Brazzaville on Sunday, Zifa president Felton Kamambo has challenged them to prove their credentials at the tournament by reaching at least the quarter-finals.
The Zifa boss believes that the Warriors are a work in progress outfit which must now change, showing the pedigree by securing the ticket as group winners.
He also said the fact that they overcame African football heavyweights, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on their way to Egypt, demonstrates that they can match any team on the continent.
The Warriors defeated Congo Brazzaville 2-0 at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday to top Group G with 11 points while DRC, who edged Liberia 1-0 in Kinshasa will join the party as runners-up.
It is the Warriors’ fourth appearance at the tournament since independence, but sadly, they have not managed to go beyond the group stage on all previous occasions.
Successive coaches who have presided over the Warriors on those three occasions, including current coach Sunday Chidzambga have been arguing that the tournament was a learning curve for the team.
However, Kamambo who took over from Philip Chiyangwa in December last year, is demanding at least a quarter-final place at the tournament.
“We are all happy that the team has qualified for the finals in Egypt. This is the result of proper planning and organisation. We put in place everything needed for the team to qualify and the boys responded positively,” he said.
“These are the results you get if you prepare well and we are proud of the team. But now they must go to Egypt and perform better than they have been doing at such tournaments.
Like we have done, we are going to ensure they have thoroughly prepared for the tournament. We have a master plan for that and what we want from them is to go and leave a mark at the tournament, to do better than what they have done in the past,” Kamambo added.
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) yesterday used the ranking system to place Zimbabwe in pot three alongside Uganda, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Burundi for the draw that will take place on April 12 in Cairo.
Pot one contains top seeds Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Senegal, while pot two has Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Guinea, Mali and DRC. Pot four has “minors” Mauritania, Namibia, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar and Tanzania. Zimbabwe will draw one team from each pot.
In a worst case scenario, Zimbabwe can draw Egypt, Nigeria and Kenya and a favourable scenario would see the Warriors being pooled with Ivory Coast, DRC and Namibia.
At the Gabon finals in 2017, the Warriors were drawn in the same group with Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria.
Warriors captain Knowledge Musona however, believes with good preparations they can go all the way.
“Now we have to go back to our clubs and start playing regularly to be fit for the tournament. We should also try to have a good camp, and good preparatory matches for the tournament so that we prepare ourselves very well. The key to do well at the finals will be to have good preparations, start camp early as soon as possible and the rest will come into place if we prepare well,” he reckoned.
The Warriors qualified for their maiden Afcon finals in Tunisia in 2004 under the guidance of Chidzambga before making it again to Egypt in 2006 under Charles Mhlauri. However, they had to wait for more than a decade to qualify for the third time to the Gabon finals in 2017 under Kalisto Pasuwa. On those three occasions, they exited the tournament in the group stage.
2019 Afcon pots
Pot 1: Egypt, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Senegal
Pot 2: Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Guinea, Mali, DRC
Pot 3: South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Angola, Burundi
Pot 4: Mauritania, Namibia, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania