Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ENGLAND-based defender Tendayi Darikwa says the Congolese Red Devils deserve respect, but the momentum is with the Warriors to complete their mission in style with a successful story on Sunday.
The Nottingham Forest star is making his first AFCON qualifying journey with the Warriors after he became the pioneer member of the British Brigade to feature for the senior national football team.
He missed the last qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia, where the Warriors missed a chance to book their place in Egypt with a game to spare, after they succumbed to their only defeat in this adventure.
Darikwa was suspended for that match, but is back to feature for his country in the battle against the Red Devils at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
A capacity crowd of 60 000 is expected at the giant stadium for this final make-or-break showdown where the winner will get a ticket to the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt.
The Warriors, though, have their fate in their hands as even a draw on Sunday will be enough to see them sealing another dance with the continent’s finest football sides at the Nations Cup finals.
Darikwa is one of the new crop of players who were not in the Warriors fold when the team featured at the last AFCON finals in Gabon.
“I am really excited, it’s a big game for the country on Sunday,’’ the 27-year-old defender said after arriving home for the massive assignment.
“I am here now and I’ll join the rest of my teammates in camp, rest and train as we get ready for Sunday.
“As always, we want to win. We all know that we will still qualify with a draw but this is a home game for us and we want to entertain the fans and, hopefully, score some goals and win.
“We will try our best, work hard and, hopefully, that will be enough to help us qualify for the tournament.’’
The Warriors yesterday had a full house when they conducted their afternoon training session with everyone fully focused on their date with destiny.
They are aware millions of Zimbabweans will be looking up to them on Sunday, hoping to secure their second straight appearance at the continent’s premier football showcase.
Darikwa believes the Congolese Red Devils, who won the tournament in 1972 in Cameroon, and have qualified for the AFCON quarter-finals in the last four years, should not be treated as a side that will simply roll over on Sunday.
The Congolese showed their battling qualities when they fought back to hold the Warriors to a 1-1 draw in Brazzaville after they had gone into the interval trailing to a goal by Khama Billiat.
“They are a threat. I am aware that the first game was 1-1 in Congo, so we know they are capable of competing with us,’’ said Darikwa.
‘’But, we have to do what we are good at, take the game to them and, hopefully, win.
“So, to my teammates, we need just to be ready, it’s a big opportunity for us all. Be ready for a tough game and, hopefully, we can do everyone proud.’’
Missing the trip to Liberia was disappointing for Darikwa, who made his debut for the Warriors in competitive games last year.
“I was disappointed. Of course, I wanted to be there and help the team,’’ he said.
‘’I got suspended, unfortunately, I couldn’t be there but now I am back and hopeful that I will be able to help the team get a good result on Sunday.’’