BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Egypt’s technical team is not taking the Warriors lightly, despite Zimbabwe being billed lightweights of Group A in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers finals.
Zimbabwe and Egypt will play the curtain raiser of the tournament at the 80 000-seater Cairo Stadium on Friday next week. Egypt have been doing their homework on the Sunday Chidzambga-coached side as they target a perfect start in a tournament they rate themselves as hot favourites.
The Warriors played Nigeria in an international friendly on Saturday and the match finished in a nil-all stalemate.
Egypt will play Tanzania tomorrow in their first warm-up match and Chidzambga (pictured), like what the Egyptians did on Friday, will be a keen observer.
The hosts nation’s assistant coach Hany Ramzy said they were closely monitoring the Warriors and have since observed that Zimbabwe can be very difficult to break down while their speedy forwards are always a threat.
“We are monitoring the Zimbabwe team very well. They are known for their solid defence, quick attacks and for depending on long balls,” Ramzy said.
“It will be a strong start. We hope to get a positive result as it would be a good boost to continue our campaign successfully.”
Under Mexican coach Javier Aguirre, Egypt have adopted a more adventurous approach to their play and they will be looking to use that against the Warriors.
Egypt and Zimbabwe have Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo for company in their group, with the top two teams guaranteed passage to the knockout stages, while there is an extra window for third-place finishers depending on outcomes in other groups in the 24-team tournament.
Aguirre has observed that Uganda, DR Congo and Zimbabwe have similar attributes with all three blessed with pace upfront.
He also expects all three to be well-organised at the back.
“The three teams are similar to a big extent in terms of organisation. They have pace which they perfectly use to hit their opponents on the break,” Aguirre told the Egyptian FZ’s website.
“This will put us under pressure and we will have to be fully focused on taking our chances.”
The former Mexico boss also said Egypt need to make the most of their home advantage.
The Pharaohs won the title the last time they hosted the tournament in 2006.
“You [the fans] have a big role to play to help us win the trophy. Don’t waste this chance,” he told the fans.
The mentor has decided to go for experience in his squad selection, roping in players that he believes can withstand the pressure of expectation at home.
“Egypt’s hosting of the Nations Cup opened the door for some experienced players,” Aguirre said.
“We want to make the most of their experience and recent fine displays.”
The seven-time African champions have 17 locally-based players in their squad, but have one of the best players in the world in Liverpool forward Mohammed Salah.
Salah is expected to pay a key part in his nations’ campaign for an eighth Afcon title, but despite his profile, Zimbabwe’s defenders have said they hold no fears.
This week Chidzambga said his team had learnt a lot in their experience against Nigeria on Saturday.
He said his team would draw a lot of confidence from their performance against the Super Eagles, especially considering that they managed to keep a clean sheet against the former African champions.
Zimbabwe will play their final warm-up match against Tanzania on Sunday, with Egypt polishing up against Guinea on the same day.
Zimbabwe 2019 Afcon squad:
Goalkeepers: George Chigova, Edmore Sibanda, Elvis Chipezeze
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa, Jimmy Dzingai, Divine Lunga, Teenage Hadebe, Alec Mudimu, Ronald Pfumbidzai
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi, Marvelous Nakamba, Danny Phiri, Ovidy Karuru, Kuda Mahachi, Talent Chawapihwa, Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Thabani Kamusoko
Strikers: Nyasha Mushekwi, Tino Kadewere, Evans Rusike, Knox Mutizwa