BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS have learnt from the Somalia experience not to take anyone lightly and will try to bring their A game when they hunt the dangerous Crocodiles of Lesotho in an African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Their Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifying preliminary round first leg defeat to Somalia has schooled the Warriors, their technical team and even Zifa that football is not won on reputation or rankings, but on the pitch.
As they approach their opponents tomorrow, they will look to win at all cost and will not necessarily look to entertain supporters who demand aesthetics as the home-based Warriors get their rare chance to shine.
Coach Joey Antipas said he would prefer his team to grind results to achieve desired targets and is ready to sacrifice beauty for substance.
He was roundly criticised for the team’s disjointed performance against Somalia a fortnight ago.
Antipas is back again on the spotlight and speaking to NewsDaySport after the team’s training session yesterday, the Chicken Inn gaffer said, while he expects an improved performance from his side on this one, he would not lose sleep if the team plays badly, but gets the job done.
“The last time against Somalia we didn’t have much time to work together. This time around, we have had time with the players and they are on top of their game, so we are expecting a good game. But what really counts is to win, because as coaches and players there is no bad win in football as long as you win and you get over the line. That is what is important,” Antipas said.
The squad has been in camp for almost a week; time which Antipas believes is enough to build a solid team that will prevail against Lesotho.
“Preparations for the match have gone well so far. All the players are in camp so we have a difficult choice to come up with the final squad. I feel that we have quality players in the squad, so definitely we are trying to come up with the right combinations. We will have to work hard and try to get to perfection as we go. But one thing I can assure you is that the fans will get 100% from the players and hoping that the fans will come out in their numbers, be patriotic and give full backing to the team,” Antipas said.
Lesotho qualified to this round after dumping South Africa, which could be a warning to the Warriors that they are facing a formidable side.
“Lesotho is a very good side, a team which we cannot underrate. They showed they are good side by getting into this final round after beating South Africa, so a team that beat SA is a strong side. They have been together for a very long time, they are a team who play together in all the qualifiers, including the World Cup, Africa Cup of Nations, Cosafa so they know one another. For us, we are trying to get a winning combination from our guys. But all-in-all, we are good and we should be ready on Sunday. Once we get our combinations well, I believe we can be an exciting team that can deliver. We just have to go out there with the right mentality, correct attitude and try to come out with a winning formula because if we do that we won’t go wrong,” Antipas said.
Seven key players will miss the match tomorrow due to different reasons.
Striker Evans Katema and Leeroy Mavunga are injured while Joel Ngodzo, William Manondo, Nomore Chinyerere and goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupangedengu are all ineligible as their passports have expired.
Defender Lawrence Mhlanga is also doubtful for the match because of a groin problem.
Antipas believes those who are available will do the job. He was expected to name his final 18-squad after the afternoon session yesterday, with Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Nelson Chadya one of those likely to be dropped.
The return leg is in Maseru on October 20, with the aggregate winner qualifying to the Chan finals set for Cameroon in January next year.
The biennial football tournament exclusively features players from the respective national championships, and the competing national teams must be composed of players playing in the domestic league.