BY HENRY MHARA
After all the talk since the day the draw for the 2022 qualifying campaign for Africa was conducted, Zimbabwe’s Warriors and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana will finally settle scores in their blockbuster collision at the National Sports Stadium in Harare this afternoon.
A weakened Warriors side that lost a big chunk of its preferred squad due to COVID-19-induced travel complications, faces a relatively weak Bafana Bafana side, with both teams seeking a flying start to the campaign.
Had it not been of the United Kingdom’s travel restrictions, Zimbabwe would have been fielding probably their strongest side in many years after the likes of Macauley Bonne and Brendon Galloway had finally heeded a national team call-up.
Zdravko Logarušic would have been licking his lips at the quality at his disposal. Zimbabwe would have been clear favourites, but developments over the last 10 days have probably rendered them underdogs.
Their problems have not dispirited them though, with captain Knowledge Musona saying the platform is well set for them to collect all points available.
The 31-year-old and his troops wrapped up their preparations for this emotionally-charged clash with a two-hour training session at the match venue yesterday.
He said beating Bafana Bafana would be key in giving the squad confidence in their quest for their first-ever qualification to the World Cup finals.
“We have to win and set the tone for the next game in four days’ time,” said Musona in reference to the Warriors’ second group game match coming up on Tuesday away in Ethiopia.
“We are playing at home, so we are expected to win. A good start will be good for us. So we are going to fight from the first minute and try to win the game. That will give us confidence going into the next game in Ethiopia and other games after.”
Musona is expecting a tough challenge from Bafana Bafana who have publicly declared that they will be happy to play for a draw.
“It’s the first game of the qualifiers and that makes it a big game for both teams. We should be ready because we are playing a very good opponent. We are going to give them the respect that they deserve. We know it’s not going to be an easy game, but the team is ready to fight for the nation,” he told journalists after the team’s final session at the match venue.
The blockbuster match will be played in an empty stadium after Caf turned Zifa’s request to have 10 000 fans attend the game.
“It would have been massive to have the supporters because they play an important role especially when you are playing at home, so it’s a pity that they will not be there,” Musona said.
“But I’m sure they will be supporting us from home. We are playing on home soil, so it gives us the extra power and that will to go an extra mile. We will give everything and try to give our supporters a good feeling that they deserve.”
Musona and his crew will be looking to do what their predecessors failed to do; taking the team to the World Cup finals.
The closest that the Warriors have ever come to making the World Cup finals was the qualifiers for USA 1994 when they lost their last match against Cameroon.
Twenty-seven years on, the Zimbabweans are determined not to suffer the same disappointment on the road to Qatar 2022.
Both teams will be eyeing the three points at stake and hope to claim a slot at the top of the group table that also contains Ghana and Ethiopia who clash this
- Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara