Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
FORMER Warriors internationals have backed the current crop to defy odds and secure a result against hosts Egypt in the opening game of the 2019 African Cup of Nations in Cairo.
The Warriors were pooled in the same Group A as the Pharaohs at a draw conducted by in Cairo on Friday night with Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda completing the set up.
Although Egypt will start as favourites to top the group, the ex-midfield trio of Joel Lupahla, Ronald “Gidiza’’ Sibanda and Lazarus Muhoni, insisted the Warriors do not have to feel intimidated at the prospects of facing the hosts who will be led by Liverpool Mohamed Salah.
Lupahla, Sibanda and Muhoni were part of the cast of the Warriors that faced Egypt at the 2004 Nations Cup in Tunisia.
Muhoni urged skipper Knowledge Musona and his troops to ignore the intimidating Egyptian crowd that is likely to fill the Cairo national stadium to capacity.
“When the supporters start singing lighting those flames and beating their drums, the intimidation is just too much and you need strong characters to stand that.
“But when you are informed like I am today you will know that those flames will never get to you and they will not burn you, those supporters will never put a hand on you.
“The Egyptians are a very good side but we also have a good team, look at our results it is self-evident, we have very good coaches and I think we have an equal chance.
“My plea to the players is to never look or focus at what will be happening at the terraces and I tell you we will have an equal chance.
“The hosts have a lot of pressure to deliver in the first game and we can capitalise on that,” said Muhoni.
Sibanda reckoned that despite having Salah in their arsenal, the current crop is “far behind the Egyptian side that dominated the continent with three continental triumphs on the bounce.
“The Egyptian team we played against was a (mobile) unit, those players played together for a long time at Al Ahly and the level of understanding was too much.
“Unlike today just like most national teams there is no cohesion, players play for different clubs and combinations are very difficult,” Sibanda said.
“But as a team we need to do our homework, we need to help our coaches with thorough preparations and also we need all the players eligible to play for Zimbabwe to be available for selection.
“AFCON final is a big tournament and we need to work very hard to prepare for the games.
“To the players they need to be strong and must not be intimidated, those supporters on the terraces remain there and can never harm them, we need to be strong,” said Sibanda.
TelOne FC technical manager Lupahla recalled the scenes that greeted them when they arrived in Tunisia.
“In our team Peter (Ndlovu) was easily recognisable so for the first game when we stepped out of the bus they started saying Peter you brought school kids with you.
“Those teams thrive on intimidation but we need to be strong and rise above that, we have very good players which I think on their day can do well against anyone.
“But the most important thing is thorough preparations and help prepare the team for the tournament, with good preparations we have a chance of doing very well, I am confident in the quality of our coaches and players,” said Lupahla.