BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
WARRIORS coach Joey Antipas believes Botswana are tough opponents who can throw spanners in the works for his team’s bid to qualify for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.
The Warriors are in Group H, which also has the reigning African champions Algeria, neighbours Botswana and Zambia.
Zimbabwe host Botswana in the opening match of the campaign at the National Sports Stadium on November 15, before travelling to Zambia four days later seeking a fast start to their
Botswana recently played a friendly match against heavyweights Egypt, whom they restricted to just a single goal in Cairo, a clear demonstration they will pose real threat in the qualifiers.
Botswana’s game has been evolving in recent years after they made their first appearance at the 2012 African Cup of Nations finals.Antipas is not taking them lightly and wants thorough preparations.
“Botswana are tough opponents. We have played them on a number of occasions, although we won most of the encounters, they remain a real threat and we have to prepare thoroughly for the match,” he said.
The Warriors gaffer is also worried by the lack of an international friendly ahead of the start of the qualifiers.Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) failed to secure an international friendly match for the Warriors during the Fifa calendar for international matches last month.
Antipas said they would have wanted to, at least, play one international friendly match before they kick-start the campaign.“Ideally, we would have wanted a situation where we play at least a friendly match before the start of the campaign. That was, however, not possible as Zifa failed to arrange the friendly during the Fifa break, so we have to make do with what is there. We just have to be focused and remain confident of producing good results,” he said.
The Warriors coach is expecting Europe-based players, Macauley Bonne of Charlton Athletic and Adam Chicksen of Bolton Wanderers, to have secured passports by the time they face Botswana.
The duo, born in England to Zimbabwean parents, did not have Zimbabwean passports and were not eligible to play for the Warriors.They have since secured birth certificates, paving the way for them to secure passports.
Zimbabwe are desperate to make it to the Cameroon finals to try and make up for their disappointing show in the last finals played in Egypt earlier this year.