RUDO Neshamba announced her return to the Mighty Warriors fold in style by guiding the team to a comprehensive 4-1 victory over Angola in the two teams’ opening Cosafa Women Championships match at the Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, yesterday.
BY HENRY MHARA
The dreadlocked striker scored a hat-trick in the match, while Emmaculate Msipa weighed in with another goal as Zimbabwe cruised to a comfortable win in the Group C match.
For her efforts, Neshamba picked up the Player of the Match Award and walked away with the match ball.
It was an emotional return for a player who contemplated quitting football altogether just two years ago because of a knee injury.
She played for the national team at the Rio Olympics Games in 2016, where she aggravated her injury.
So bad was the injury that she contemplated hanging her boots, but after a successful surgery in 2017 the striker, who is now a mother of one, returned to competitive football last year when she joined local league side Harare City Queens.
And with chief striker Rutendo Makore not in the team this year, Neshamba is expected to lead the team to glory.
Zimbabwe’s next match is against Mozambique tomorrow at the same venue and will conclude their group games with a clash against Eswatini on Monday.
There are only three groups in this year’s edition of the competition, so three group leaders and the best placed runner up will advance to the semi-finals.
With Group C winners set to meet Group A winners in the semi-finals, there is a possibility of Zimbabwe meeting tournament favourites and hosts South Africa in the last four.
Banyana Banyana are expected to finish top of their group and they opened their campaign with a 17-0 crashing of Comoros yesterday, breaking the tournament’s long standing record in the process.
They beat the previous best score-line of 15-0 registered by Zimbabwe against Lesotho 17 years ago.
Besides playing to win the tournament, the teams are using the Cosafa Championships to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which starts just a few weeks after the final in Port Elizabeth.
Zimbabwe will play Zambia in the Olympic qualifiers.