BY GERALD MUTSVAIRO
Zimbabwe senior netball team coach Lloyd Makunde is satisfied with the progress of his team’s preparations for the World Cup and feels that their impending friendly match away to Uganda later this month will help him gauge how far they have improved.
The Gems, as the team is popularly known, have been in camp for almost 20 days now preparing for their first appearance at the World Cup set for Liverpool, England.
The tournament will run from July 12–21 2019 at the Echo Arena.
To prepare for the tournament, Zimbabwe have organised a friendly match against African champions Uganda on April 22, a team that is also going to Liverpool.
Makunde said he would be happy if they can also face South Africa and Malawi in the build-up, the other World Cup-bound teams from Africa.
“I am happy with our preparations so far. Everything is going according to plan since we started camp on March 25. We are playing Uganda in a preparatory match; that should
give us an idea on where we are going. I would also love to play South Africa and Malawi since they also qualified from Africa, and are ranked above us. If we can play all of them, that would be enough preparations for us,” Makunde said.
There are also indications that Zimbabwe might play Zambia in the build-up.
“That would be better for us if it happens.”
Zimbabwe, who will be making their first appearance at the World Cup, are in a tough group where they will face champions Australia as well as another powerhouse, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka in Group A.
Makunde is not unfazed by the challenge and is targeting to go beyond the group stage.
“We want to go there and fare well. Our target is to qualify to the second round, and with enough preparations, it’s achievable.”
Zimbabwe are the third best-ranked team in their group on 13th position, with Northern Ireland at eighth – and was one of the eight seeded teams in the draw while Sri Lanka is down at number 26 on the rankings table.
The top three teams in each group advance to the second stage. The top two teams in the two groups of six in that second phase will then face off in the semi-finals.
Zimbabwe earned their place at the showpiece after finishing second at the African Netball Championship held in Zambia last year, a competition which was won by Uganda to also book their ticket.
South Africa and Malawi were among the five teams to get automatic qualification by virtue of their high-ranking positions in the International Netball Federation world rankings, together with Australia, New Zealand and Jamaica.