WARRIORS’ chances of qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, rests on them getting a good result against a star-studded Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the two nations back-to-back matches, starting with tonight’s showdown in Kinshasa.
BY HENRY MHARA
Kick-off at the Martyrs Stadium is 7:30pm, Zimbabwe time.
The two teams, who will again face off at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday evening in the return leg, are favourites to clinch the two tickets from Group G for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Cameroon in January next year.
After Congo Brazzaville beat Liberia in the other Group G qualifier on Thursday evening to move at par with Zimbabwe and DRC with four points each, tonight’s battle in Kinshasa could prove defining, especially for the Warriors.
Having beaten Liberia 3-0 at home and picking a point away in Brazzaville, the Sunday Chidzambga-coached side will need to avoid defeat today, and go for a win in Harare early next week.
Getting four points from these two matches will almost guarantee Zimbabwe a ticket to the finals, knowing they still have a home match against a beatable Congo Brazzaville and an away game against Liberia later in the campaign.
Three points from a possible six against this hugely talented DRC side, whose superstars are scattered all over in the world’s top leagues, would be massive for the Warriors, who would have destiny within their hands going into the last two matches.
But if Chidzambga’s men get beat in the two matches, or pick just one point, then their chances of qualifying will be complicated and difficult. That will leave them to rely on results from other matches, and that has caused a heartbreak for the team previously.
For them to be able to collect points, the Warriors will have to produce a performance of their lives in the next four days, as they are up against a very good side led by Africa’s most expensive player Cedric Bakambu, who plays in the Chinese Super League.
He is not the only star in the team, with the likes of West Ham’s Arthur Masuaku, Yannick Bolasie, ex-Chelsea midfielder Gael Kakuta, and skipper Chancel Mbemba who plays for Portugal giants FC Porto, also part of the star studded squad.
All these stars have been recalled to the squad after missing the team’s 1-1 draw against Liberia, and Mbemba is upbeat about their chances of winning against the Warriors.
“Our morale is such that we are all committed to winning the games against Zimbabwe. Victory will be our focus, especially at home. We are united. Those who had the chance to play the match against Liberia did the main thing by bringing back a draw. But for this double confrontation, we need everyone to bring the best of himself to take all six points,” he said in a pre-match Press conference yesterday.
DRC coach Florent Ibengé is also aware of the importance of getting points against Zimbabwe.
“To start this double confrontation at home is a positive pressure, because we want to go to Cameroon. We must be unbeatable at home. We think that every day, we must be in a position to qualify. So if we lose this Saturday (today), it will be complicated. We absolutely have to win to be in a qualifying position,” Ibenge said yesterday.
Chidzambga will be without Nyasha Mushekwi and Costa Nhamoinesu, but his side remains strong and competitive, capable of getting desired results.
The return of Marvellous Nakamba, who missed the team’s last qualifier, should strengthen the squad even more.
Warriors are expected to be very conservative in their approach to tonight’s match, with Nakamba set to join Danny Phiri and Marshal Munetsi in midfield.
Zimbabwe, DRC and Congo Brazzaville are all on four points, although the former lead the standings due to a superior goal difference.
Warriors probable 11
G Chigova, T Darikwa, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, R Pfumbidzai, M Munetsi, D Phiri, M Nakamba, K Billiat, O Karuru, K Musona