While Tino Kadewere admitted to rooting for Mohamed Salah and Liverpool in this season’s Premier League title race, the Zimbabwe forward will be looking to upstage the Egypt star in tonight’s curtain-raiser at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
Zimbabwe will be making just their fourth appearance at the continental showpiece and have never advanced beyond the opening round.
Yet, Kadewere is full of optimism as Zimbabwe arrive in Cairo with a much-changed squad from the one that exited in the group stage two years ago with just a point after a tough draw
that placed them alongside Senegal, Tunisia and Algeria.
“In 2017, we had a few experienced players, but now it’s more of a young squad. It is a new generation,” Kadewere told AFP.
“It’s a whole new squad. We have been together for quite a while now, and we have been doing well since last year when we played the Cosafa Cup.”
Kadewere (23) scored twice in the final as Zimbabwe overcame Zambia 4-2 after extra time to win the regional tournament in 2018, the second of back-to-back titles in the southern Africa
This time, a Cup of Nations group including hosts and record seven-time champions Egypt, the Democratic of Congo and Uganda has left Zimbabwe believing they can break new ground in Africa.
“Everyone in Zimbabwe really wants us to try and get to the knock-out stages,” Kadewere
said: “We, as players, we want to make history. We are hoping to make people remember our names. We are hoping to make good history, to make people know that Zimbabwe is one of the best countries in Africa.”
Kadewere, one of just a handful of Zimbabwean players in Europe, is drawing inspiration from the Ajax side that came within seconds of reaching this season’s Uefa Champions League final
after a run that saw the Dutch giants dump out both holders Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus.
“No one ever knew that Ajax was going to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and they did it, and they were one foot away from the final. Why can’t Zimbabwe get to the final also?
We never know.”
A defeat of highly-fancied Egypt, winners on three of the past four occasions they have hosted the tournament, on the opening day of the competition would certainly make opponents and
supporters alike take notice.
“It’s an honour to be going to the Afcon. It means even a greater achievement by playing against the host nation in the first game, playing against the best African player, and probably
one of the best in the world also,” Kadewere said.
“It’s not going to be easy for us, but we are going there to fulfil our duties and to represent our country, and to do everything possible for us to get a win.”