BY HENRY MHARA
FORMER South Africa national team coach Gordon Igesund has ruled out Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Ivory Coast after finding themselves in a tough group.
Zimbabwe were pitted against neighbours South Africa, Morocco and Liberia in a tough Group K following a draw that was held in South Africa on Tuesday. The Warriors will be looking to make it four straight appearances at the Afcon finals if they can negotiate their way in a tough qualifying group.
Their participation in the qualifiers, however, is in doubt though as the country was suspended by Fifa due to government interference in Zifa affairs.
Only the top two teams from the group will qualify to the Afcon finals.
Igesund, who guided Bafana Bafana to the quarter-finals at the 2013 Afcon edition, has a low opinion of Zimbabwe, who he thinks will not finish above South Africa and Morocco who says were favourites to qualify from the
“Zimbabwe are in southern Africa. They are just okay as a team, but if all things are equal South Africa should be able to qualify. They need to beat both Zimbabwe and Liberia to qualify,” the respected former Mamelodi Sundowns coach said.
Igesund is tipping Morocco and South Africa, who missed the Afcon finals held in Cameroon earlier this year, to sail through the group without any difficulties.
“Under normal circumstances, I would say this is a favourable draw for us. Morocco for me obviously the favourites (to win the group). This is a fantastic group for South Africa to be in because, truth-speaking, we should beat Zimbabwe and we should also beat Liberia who are ranked 149th in the world,” Igesund said.
“Morocco is always a tough game. I think South Africa got a lucky draw. If you could pick a group you wanted to be in, this is the group I would have picked. Truly speaking, if we get our best team out there, we can qualify.
“They (Bafana Bafana) got a good draw and they should qualify without any problems. We should go through it quite easily. Morocco and South Africa will be strong favourites to qualify as the two top teams.”
The Confederation of African Football (Caf) has given Zimbabwe a chance to resolve its domestic issues as they involved the Warriors in the draw despite the suspension.
Fifa has demanded that the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) reinstate the Felton Kamambo-led board, which was suspended last year.
SRC has until two weeks before the start of the qualifiers to get the suspension lifted by Fifa, but their chances of actually taking to the field look slim, with the local sports regulator adamant that they will not bring back Kamambo.
If the suspension is not lifted two weeks before the qualifiers starts, the Warriors will be eliminated and Group K will shrink to three, with the top two qualifying for the Afcon finals.
The SRC has put in place a restructuring committee to oversee the running of football in the country. Fifa is demanding the disbandment of the committee as one of the conditions to lift the suspension.
It appears the SRC is resting all its hopes on the Zifa congress revoking the mandate of the Kamambo executive when they meet later this week at an extraordinary general meeting.
It is highly unlikely though that Fifa will endorse anything that will come out of the weekend meeting, which the world football governing body has previously blocked.
Sports minister Kirsty Coventry has not done much to give hope of resolving this issue before the qualifiers start.
If Zimbabwe is allowed to play in the qualifiers, they will have to play their home matches away from home as the National Sports Stadium, the only stadium that was being used by the Warriors in recent years, has been barred from hosting international matches until it has been renovated to meet minimum standards required by Caf.
SRC, which is in charge of the stadium, has failed to install bucket seats and electronic turnstiles, and also set up a venue operations centre.
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