BY KEVIN MAPASURE IN YAOUNDE CAMEROON
THE Warriors will play for pride when they clash with Guinea in their last Group B Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) contest here today.
Following their dispiriting defeat to Malawi on Friday which ruled them out of the running for a place in the next round, the Norman Mapeza-coached side has a point to prove.
They arrived in Cameroon on a mission.
They wanted to be the first group to reach the last 16 after several failed attempts, but they may find themselves on the wrong side of history if they leave Cameroon without a point.
With the 2023 Afcon qualifiers starting this March, the players will be looking to prove that they deserve to be called up again.
For Mapeza, it will be yet another audition, with debate already raging on whether Zifa should hire him on a full-time basis ahead of the next qualifiers.
To some, he is unfortunate to have a depleted side due to injury to key platers, and also that for the match against Senegal, they were seconds away from clinching a point against one of the tournament favourites before they conceded a penalty.
Against Malawi, he seemed to have got his plans correct, but watched in agony as his charges missed one chance after another in the first half until they were punished.
Today’s game provides an opportunity for him to prove that he has what it takes to preside over the national team.
But he will have to pick his men from a group of players fighting to lift the heavy burden that came with the disappointment of getting knocked out so early off their shoulders.
Defender Gerald Takwara admits that lifting themselves up will be a difficult task, adding that they are ready to fight to restore lost pride.
“It’s quite difficult. We are coming from a defeat and it is the way we lost the two matches that is disappointing. So it is going to be a difficult game. The spirit has changed, we were disappointed and down after the Malawi game, but now we focus on Guinea and we will give it our best,” Takwara said.
The team’s performance against Senegal had persuaded even the non-football lovers to invest their emotions in the team ahead of the Malawi game. But following the loss, the Warriors can expect little or no support this time around. Finishing with some points on the board, though futile, will go a long way to atone for the frustration.
“We just have to approach it with a positive mind so that we at least finish with some points. It is difficult for us to pick ourselves up after the disappointment. We have lost two matches and we are out of the competition,” midfielder Thabani Kamusoko said.
“We just have to look at the mistakes that we made in the last game and try to rectify them. We need to look at areas that we need to improve on and work harder. We just have to move forward. Guinea is a good side, no doubt, but we just have to concentrate and back ourselves,” he added.
Mapeza could give other players a run, but he is unlikely to make major changes to the team considering the importance of picking up some points.
Ishamel Wadi could sit this one out after picking up an ankle injury in the Malawi game and Prince Dube could return to the starting line up having been an unused substitute in the last game.
Striker Admiral Muskwe is also pushing for a start, so is Jordan Zemura who came on from the bench in the last match.
- Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinmapasure