BY HENRY MHARA
ZIMBABWE were last night drawn in Group A and will face hosts Cameroon and three other West African countries for the Nations African Championships (Chan) tournament set for Yaoundé next month.
The tournament, exclusively featuring players from the respective national championships, will be hosted from April 4 to 25 in Cameroon.
Mali and Burkina Faso complete a tough Group A, with the top two teams qualifying to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Just like at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt last year, Zimbabwe will be involved in the curtain raiser match against the Indomitable Lions on April 4.
After the tournament opener, the Zdravko Logarušic-coached side will face Burkina Faso next before completing their group campaign against Mali.
It will be a tough assignment for the Warriors to manoeuvre, but they will be buoyed by the fact that they have beaten some of the group members before in this competition.
Zimbabwe were placed in the same group with Burkina Faso in the 2014 edition held in South Africa, and won the match 1-0, with Masimba Mambare scoring the only goal of the match.
That year, the Warriors finished second in their group, with the same number of points (five) with leaders Morocco, with whom they had played to a goalless draw.
Zimbabwe were then drawn against Mali in the quarter-finals of the tournament and won 2-1, with Simba Nhivi and Kudakwashe Mahachi scoring for the then Ian Gorowa-coached side.
Their impressive run was ended by Algeria after a penalty shoot-out at the semi-final stage. The match had ended 0-0. The team went on to lose 1-0 to Nigeria in the third place match.
That was the furthest Zimbabwe went in the tournament in their five appearances at the jamboree, only missing the last edition, which was held in Morocco.
The Chan will be the first tournament for new Warriors coach Logarušic, in charge of the local senior men’s football team after he was unveiled by Zifa last week.
Logarušic will be desperate to impress in this tournament to surpass his third finish as the coach of lowly-ranked Sudan in Morocco last year.
The Warriors will also be looking to impress on their return to the tournament, but they will have to do it against odds.
With the local season expected to be about two weeks young by the time the Chan kicks off, the Croat is likely to face struggles in picking a competitive side.
He is proposing to have the squad in camp from the start of March and play at least three friendly matches to get the players match fit.
“The first problem is that there is no competitive league football taking place locally at the moment. We don’t know what kind of form these players have. Because it’s the beginning of the season, not many players will be in top form at the beginning of the season,” Logarušic said last week.
“They hit top form maybe six to eight weeks later. Also, we will be short of time to prepare, but we will try to talk to the clubs so that maybe from March 8 to 18, we can put players together to play three friendly games and then have trainings as a team.
“But we will not give every player 90 minutes, but probably 40 minutes. Let’s try in 10 days to create from the local players a competitive team that can go out there and get results.”
Logarušic may not even have that time to prepare the locally-based team for the Chan since the tournament comes just days after the Warriors’ back-to-back Afcon qualifiers against Algeria, scheduled to take place between March 23 and 31.
Group A: Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Mali.
Group B: Niger, Congo, DRC, Libya
Group C: Morocco, Togo, Uganda, Rwanda.
Group D: Tanzania, Namibia, Guinea, Zambia