BY Kevin Mapasure
Zifa are waiting to learn of the Cosafa Cup fate before they can draw up a programme for the Warriors preparations ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Egypt this June.
While there are a number of nations that the Warriors have lined up for possible friendly matches ahead of the tournament, Zifa are banking on the Cosafa Cup, which is likely to take place in South Africa, to form the core of the Warriors preparations.
Zimbabwe were drawn in Group A together with hosts Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda.
They will play the tournament opener against Egypt.
There have been preliminary discussions with football associations from Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Ghana, among others for possible friendlies.
But nothing as yet can be finalised until Cosafa release the programme for this year’s tournament.
The tournament will be important, particularly this year where five teams from the region, including South Africa, Madagascar, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe have qualified for the Afcon finals.
Zimbabwe pulled out from hosting this years’ edition after failing to get a government guarantee. It is now most likely that the event will be moved to South Africa who have already shown an interest.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare said their plans will hinge on the Cosafa Cup schedule.
“We are waiting on Cosafa to finalise the schedule for this years’ competition so that we see how much time will be left between that tournament and the Afcon finals,” Mupandare said. “There are a number of teams that would like to engage us for preparatory matches, but the Cosafa tournament will determine a lot. Considering that there will be four nations at Cosafa that have qualified for the Afcon finals, the tournament can help us prepare for Egypt.”
Namibia have said they will hold a training camp in one of the countries that are closer to Egypt, starting at the end of May.
Ahead of the last Afcon finals played in Gabon, Zimbabwe played one friendly match against Cameroon, who went on to win the tournament.
Regarding the draw for this year’s Afcon finals, Mupandare said the technical team was fairly pleased with the outcome because it could have been worse.
“The draw is not bad, especially when you look at the other teams that we could have drawn from pots two and three. The most difficult match, of course, will be against Egypt,
considering that they will be playing in front of their fans and they would want to start off well. The DRC match will be interesting since we played them in the qualifiers and took four points from the two matches. They will be looking to get their revenge, but I think they will be under pressure because of previous results. We think we have a good chance of making history by qualifying to the round of 16.”
Zifa have demanded that the Warriors at least reach the quarter-finals of the Afcon finals.