By Marshall Gore
The Warriors Head Coach Calisto Pasuwa is confident that his team will fare well against highly rated Senegal in Thursdays Group B encounter. Speaking at the Warriors base in Franceville, religious Pasuwa echoed that he has learnt a lot from the Algerian game and he wants to build from the performance and turn their weaknesses in to strength. The former Dynamos mentor is weary that a win could propel Zimbabwe into the next stage of the tournament making it a historic moment for the Southern African country who have never passed the tournament group stages in their last two campaigns. The Zimbabwe Warriors are SADC’s only representative at the tournament and carrying the hopes of the whole region.
Pasuwa said “We have prepared well for Senegal, which is another big team. We have done our homework and will pick up from where we left against Algeria. The draw against Algeria is our first point ever in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations and it is big plus for us and also motivation for the players to do better. I have confidence in the players and it serves a morale booster to do better and go the extra mile”.
According to reliable sources, there’s a possibility that the Warriors could don their official kit tomorrow against Senegal. Mafro Sport the kit supplies confirmed this week that they faced logistic challenges to land the kit in Gabon from Singapore on time.
In addition to the kit boost the Warriors have also received a boost to their pockets. All the players and the technical team received lucrative bonus payments after the draw against Algeria. Zifa Head of Communications Xolisani Gwesela confirmed that each player received $3000 match bonus after the Algeria game bringing the total earnings from the AFCON 2017 adventure so far to $25 000 per each player and $38 000 each for Pasuwa and members of the technical team. If the truth is to be said Zifa has truly delivered and even superseded expectations.
Buoyed by the fact that they were thrown right into the deep end of the Group B pool against a highly-rated Les Fennecs of Algeria, but came short of collecting maximum points in their opening AFCON fixture, the Warriors’ challenges are not yet over as they face an equally tough outfit the Taranga Lions of Senegal.
Not only are the Senegalese banking on their exposure on the continental competition that spans more than four decades (their first appearance was way back in 1965), but they also come to Gabon parading a very rich outfit on paper that has the likes of the on-fire 24 year-old Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane.
Then there is also Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City who could prove to be a handful for the Zimbabwe defence.
But it is the Senegalese midfield that could compound the woes of the Warriors if coach Pasuwa does not inject enough arsenal to combat it. In this department are the likes of Captain Cheikhou Kouyate who turns out for West Ham United, Mohamed Diame who plays for Newcastle United and Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton.
The Senegalese made a statement that they are not going to be in Gabon on holiday, posting two victories in their friendlies against Libya which they beat 2-1 and Congo 0-2.
They are also the first country to have collected maximum points and stand at the apex of the Group B log standings with three points obtained from their 2-0 defeat of Tunisia.
Team manager Aliou Cisse boasts of an equally rich international football curriculum vitae that dwarfs his opposite number, Callisto Pasuwa’s wholly domestic one.
In his own active playing days, the former played for the likes of Birmingham City, Portsmouth, PSG and briefly turned out for Arsenal while the latter niched his name for domestic champions, Dynamos which he ended up coaching and scooping a record four titles in succeeding years.
But again, do we really have to dig that much into history? It is fact that tables have been known to be turned, surprises pulled and the unexpected achieved, so it would be early days to predict an outcome basing on what’s written on paper.
Respected former national team gaffer Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa who was in charge of the Warriors when they made an appearance at AFCON in 2004 believes Zimbabwe has all it takes to advance to the next stage of the tournament if they keep their composure.
However, he is quick to add that there are a few grey areas that need to be looked into and addressed though there are more pros than cons going into the second part of the battle.
Says the legend ahead of the debacle:
“We played exceptionally well against an overrated Algeria and there is no reason we cannot repeat the same feat, or even do better. But we should not be complacent, we must remain focused till the end.
“Forget the underdog tag, we are as good as any other team that is at that tournament and our qualification is justified, it is not by default.
“We however have a little homework to do, especially with regards to ball possession. Our players need to keep the ball when they have it and avoid the risk of losing it willy nilly and when we have won it, we need to attack and not play it backwards,” reckons Chidzambwa.
Former Worriors Captain Ephraim Chawanda had this to say, “This is our second game and we should have atleast picked up the tempo of the tournament. Going into the Senegal game, the middle and front of the team should go all out on an offensive. At Afcon goals win you a match, points progress you to the next stage. Our defence should always play for a clean slate, their role is to keep a zero score against us.
The return of midfielder Marvellous Nakamba from suspension is a major boost for the Warriors. Pasuwa opted for Danny Phiri in his absence but this could change as the Dutch based midfielder offers much creativity and power in midfielder.
With Knowledge Musona injured and out of contention for the game, Pasuwa will have to battle to either replace him Cuthbert Malajila or to play Nyasha Mushekwi as a lone strike flanked by Mahachi Rusike and Supported by Khama as No 10. This worked well against Algeria.
Whatever happens, Senegal must fall and Zimbabwe must win. The whole nation is somehow eagerly awaiting and expecting for victory in Franceville where Zimbabwe has never lost a football match in their entire history. GoWarriorsGo