ZIMBABWE has been a very difficult opponent for Algeria in recent years and the Warriors stars believe that they are ready to cause another upset when they go head-to-head in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the 5 Juillet 1962 Stadium in the capital Algiers tonight.
BY HENRY MHARA IN ALGIERS, ALGERIA
The match is the first of the back-to-back matches for the two teams, which will also meet at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Monday afternoon.
Kick-off for tonight’s match is 9pm Zimbabwean time.
Zimbabwe have won one and drawn three of their last four meetings with Algeria since 2004 in the Afcon finals and World Cup qualifying matches.
Warriors stars Knowledge Musona, Ovidy Karuru and man-of-the-moment Tino Kadewere believe they have enough arsenal to come from tonight’s match with another positive result.
“Mentally, we are ready for the game,” said Kadewere, who made headlines at the weekend in France when he scored a brace for his Ligue 1 side Lyon.
“We feel ready because we have been playing games for our team and we are just looking forward to this game tomorrow.
The lanky striker, who is looking to spearhead the attack, was part of the Europe-based stars who only arrived in Harare from their bases on Monday evening before connecting to Algiers midnight on the same day.
Despite spending almost 24 hours in the air before finally reaching Algiers yesterday morning, Kadewere remains optimistic.
“We cannot use that (travelling) as an excuse, we have to be used to all these conditions because that is what we normally do. We are happy to be here, representing our country and we are hoping to do the very best that we can. Those are the negative parts of our preparations, but we don’t want to look at that because if we start looking on things like that, we lose focus.”
The last time that Zimbabwe and Algeria met was at the 2017 Afcon finals when the Warriors came within eight minutes to clinch an unlikely victory before the Desert Foxes talisman Riyad Mahrez
scored a screamer to snatch a 2-2 draw.
“We had a very good outing the last time we played them and we can bring that as a motivation. Algeria have been playing well recently, but anything can happen. We are hoping that we can get a better result than the last one we got against them. But it doesn’t come easy, we have to work hard for it and show what we can do on the pitch,” Kadewere said.
“I came here to help my country and I’m really proud to represent Zimbabwe. I will make sure I do my best and put to use the things that I have learnt since I signed for Lyon and try to help my teammates. I hope to take the form that I have been enjoying with my club to the national team,” Kadewere added.
The other time that the two teams met in an Afcon finals was in 2004 when Joel Lupahla and Adam Ndlovu’s goals secured a 2-1 victory for Zimbabwe.
Earlier that year, the teams had met in a World Cup qualifier in a match that ended in a 1-1 draw.
In 2015, the two teams met in a World Cup qualifier which ended in a 2-2 draw, with Shingi Kawondera and Peter Ndlovu on target for Zimbabwe.
The only other time that the two teams met after Zimbabwe’s independence was in 1989 in the Fifa World Cup qualifiers when Algeria won back-to-back matches.
“This is a tough game, but anything can happen. We just have to stick to our tactics and work as hard as we can,” Musona said.
The Warriors captain added: “We have a very good team and I believe in the guys who are here. We have enough quality in the team, so nothing is impossible. We are ready to fight and make our country proud.”
Musona believes if his team can avoid conceding a goal in the opening 20 minutes, they will have a good chance of getting a good result.
“We need to avoid conceding early in the match and we will grow in confidence. Our plan is to frustrate them early on because they are playing at home, they will be desperate for points, so we know they will come to us very early. We have to be careful with the way we defend and make sure we make use of the chances that we will create. We will have to capitalise on the mistakes that they will make. We have a chance to win because we have the quality and at any moment, we can score a goal,” he said.
The match will be played in an empty stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic, something that Musona thinks can work for the visiting team.
“It’s an advantage because when you play away and there are supporters, you will be under pressure. In this case, we feel it’s a blessing in disguise. We can play freely, we can hear each other because there won’t be any noise in the stadium,” he said.
Another senior player, Karuru, said they should avoid giving Algeria too much respect despite the galaxy of stars that make their squad.
“We also have big name players in our team, the likes of Tino, Marvelous Nakamba and Tendai Darikwa who play at the same level with most of these Algerians. Some of the Algerians play in lesser leagues like Qatar and some of their players are old, so I think we have a good chance. Nowadays, it’s not about where one plays because when you come to Africa, it’s a different ball game altogether,” he said.
The Zdravko Logarusic-coached side was expected to have a feel of the playing pitch last night.