WARRIORS captain Knowledge Musona believes a positive start against neighbours Botswana at home could go a long way in determining how well the team does in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying campaign.
BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe hosts the Zebras at the National Sports Stadium this evening in a Group H opener, hoping that the momentum from the strong finish in the previous Afcon qualifying campaign will carry over into this one.
Kick-off is 6pm, and the cheapest ticket for the match is going for $20.
The Warriors were nearly perfect in the last Afcon qualifying campaign which culminated in the team qualifying for the finals in Egypt this year, losing just one of the six matches they played.
They had started with a convincing 3-0 home win over Liberia, and finished the campaign with a 2-0 victory also at home against Congo Brazzaville.
For Zimbabwe to qualify for the Afcon finals to be hosted by Cameroon in 2021, they need to finish in the top two of the four-team group that also includes Zambia, whom they face on Tuesday as well as African champions Algeria.
“It’s very important to start strongly. It even boosts confidence for the next game on Tuesday (against Zambia). We need to start strongly and finish the campaign strongly like we did the last time especially when playing at home. This is our home ground so we need to take maximum points,” Musona said.
“We are playing at home so we need three points. We have to go out there and play our best and try to win the match.”
The Belgium-based striker jetted into the country on Wednesday night, and trained with the rest of the squad yesterday morning, which was his only training session before today’s game against what is regarded as the weakling of the group.
Musona urged his squad to guard against complacency. He also wants the team to fly off the blocks in this one, and kill the opponent as early as possible.
“It’s an interesting game. Nowadays there is no small team, any team can compete, so we are not going to underrate Botswana,” Musona warned.
“They are a very good team so we have to do our best and try to kill the game in the first half and utilise all the chances that I hope we will create. If we score early, it becomes easy for us. When you play at home you need to win the game early because the supporters will obviously be behind us and it reduces pressure. We need to give something to the supporters so that they can be happy.”
The Smiling Assassin has not played any competitive match for his Belgium club Anderlecht this term, and his lack of match fitness could be a huge worry.
But for him, it’s not an issue. “I have been training with the team 100% so I’m not worried. I was in the same situation in German, I remember I was not playing at the club but I came here and there was no problem so I’m expecting the same. I’m not sitting around at the club, but I’m training in a normal way just like the other players who are playing regularly so it’s not a problem at all.”
The squad appeared to be in high spirits as they went through their final paces before the match. The only blot in their preparations was the injury to left-back Devine Lunga, who suffered a groin problem. That means Ronald Pfumbidzai is assured of a first team place.
“The players are happy; everyone is smiling, and working hard in training. I hope we will keep it like this for these two games. We are ready to play and win the game,” Musona said.
Probable starting XI
E Chipezeze, R Pfumbidzai, I Nekati, T Hadebe, A Mudimu, M Nakamba, M Munetsi, K Billiat, K Mahachi, K Musona, K Mutizwa