BY Kevin Mapasure
The Zimbabwe senior national football team got a fair Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) draw after they were pooled with Senegal, Guinea and Malawi in Group B.
While there was no chance of an easy draw considering the profile of the teams in the pots, drawing Malawi and Guinea probably gives them a good chance to pick enough points to take them beyond the group stages.
The crucial part of the draw was which nation the Warriors would pick out from pot two, which contained Guinea, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mali and Burkina Faso.
While none can be classified as minnows, it looked like drawing either Guinea or Burkina Faso would be quite favourable for Zimbabwe.
The Warriors played Guinea and Malawi in the 2017 Afcon qualifiers and managed seven points from the four matches.
They picked a point against Guinea with whom they drew at home before they lost away.
By the time they played Guinea in the last match of the qualifiers, Kalisto Pasuwa’s side had already qualified to the finals.
Against Malawi, they won home and away and would fancy themselves again.
Malawi have, however, improved and the Warriors would need to bring their best game.
The two southern African nations have played each other 10 times with Zimbabwe winning four times while Malawi won once and the rest ended in draws.
Zimbabwe played Senegal at the 2017 Afcon finals and lost 2-0.
Senegal have also improved over the years as they went on to reach the finals in 2019, losing to Algeria in the final.
Leeds and South Africa legend Lucas Radebe backed the Zimbabwe senior men’s team to go all the way and win the Afcon at next year’s finals in Cameroon.
Radebe was one of the guests at the draw ceremony in Cameroon and after he was asked to name the team that he thought would lift the trophy, he made the surprise pick.
He backed his assertion by pointing out how the Warriors have progressed over the years.
Before him, Senegalese legend El Hadji Diouf had opined that Senegal would win the cup after losing finals in Egypt in 2019.
While it was suggested to Radebe that Nigeria could be the favourites, he declined to put the Super Eagles on top of his list to settle for Zdravco Logarušić’s side.
“Nigeria, maybe, but I would go for Zimbabwe. They have qualified and it is not by fluke. Zimbabwe is one of the most promising teams that we have seen,” he said triggering an applause.
Zimbabwe will be playing at the finals for the fifth time, but they have so far failed to progress beyond the group stages.
In Egypt, they finished with a single point following their draw with Uganda after losing to hosts and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In the draw last night, hosts Cameroon were pooled with Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Cape Verde, while in Group D Nigeria and Egypt will face each other.
Group A: Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Cape Verde
Group B: Senegal, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Malawi
Group C: Morocco, Ghana, Comoros, Gabon
Group D: Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Guinea-Bissau
Group E: Algeria, Sierra Leone, Equatorial Guinea, Ivory Coast
Group E: Tunisia, Mali, Mauritania, Gambia
Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmapasure