BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
AS Zifa step up preparations for the Warriors ahead of the upcoming 2019 African Cup of Nations finals, several high-profile countries including South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast have confirmed their interest to play the Warriors.
Zifa president Felton Kamambo, who is in Nigeria where he was invited for the Nigeria Football Federation Awards along several other FA presidents, said other countries including Tunisia, Uganda, Ghana, Cameroon, Namibia and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana were willing to play the Warriors in matches to be used as dress rehearsals for the continental soccer showpiece.
The Zifa boss, however, said they would meet again at the draw of the tournament on Friday next week to finalise on the proposed friendlies.
“These countries are interested in playing us, we have discussed about the friendly matches, but we will meet again at the draw to finalise,” Kamambo said.
However, with Zimbabwe, who are in pot 3, likely to be drawn against teams like Tunisia and Nigeria, who are in pot 1 and 2, respectively, it perhaps makes sense to wait until the draw to finalise the friendly matches, since most coaches would want to avoid playing against teams that they will also encounter at the tournament.
But there should be no problems with teams like South Africa and Uganda, which are also in Pot 3 with Zimbabwe.
The Warriors beat Congo Brazzaville 2-0 to qualify for the tournament to be held in Egypt in June.
While it is their fourth appearance, ill-preparedness has been one of their biggest drawbacks in previous appearances.
In the last edition, they played only one friendly match against Cameroon en-route to the finals in Gabon, where they exited the tournament in the first round with just a single point.
This year’s edition has been expanded from 16 to 24 teams.
The 24 teams are seeded into four pots, based on the Caf national team rankings.
They will be drawn into six groups of four teams. The hosts, Egypt, will be seeded in Group A.
The top two teams of each group, along with the best four third-placed teams, advance to the round of 16.
2019 Afcon draw seeding
Pot 1: Egypt (hosts, assigned to A1), Cameroon (title holders), Ghana, Ivory Coast, Tunisia, Senegal
Pot 2: Morocco, Nigeria, Algeria, Guinea, Mali, DR Congo
Pot 3: Uganda, South Africa, Guinea-Bissau, Zimbabwe, Angola, Burundi
Pot 4: Mauritania, Namibia, Benin, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania