AFTER the sensational heroics on Saturday when Zimbabwe pulled off the most stunning of upsets to beat highly fancied Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in their Kinshasa fortress, the Warriors will need to put yet another perfect performance when the two teams clash again at the National Sports Stadium this evening.
BY HENRY MHARA
Warriors captain Ovidy Karuru (in red shorts) plays a game of pool against Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader Walter Magaya (right) at Yadah Village yesterday where the team is camped, while his teammates Ronald Pfumbidzai, Knowledge Musona and Edmore Sibanda look on
Kick-off of this Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G reverse fixture is 7pm local time, and Zifa has pegged the cheapest ticket for the match at $5.
Sunday Chidzambga’s men put in the doughtiest of defensive performances to pull off the shock 2-1 victory at a packed 80 000 seat Martyrs Stadium, in a show that left the whole continent in awe.
The victory, that came in extraordinary fashion, and achieved through memorable goals by the returning Ronald Pfumbidzai and captain Knowledge Musona, put the Warriors on the brink of qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations finals next year.
Should the Warriors pull another Houdini Act in front of the expected huge crowd, the team will book their ticket to the continent’s premier football competition, if Congo Brazzaville beat or draw against Liberia in the other Group G match in Paynesville tonight.
Warriors captain Ovidy Karuru, standing in for the suspended Musona, who picked a red card in the Kinshasa rumble, is happy that the team managed to execute the plan well away to outsmart this very talented DRC side.
But he is aware of the huge task that awaits his boys when they troop into the giant stadium, to face a desperate and a retaliating visitor, whose whole campaign hinges on getting a good result tonight.
“We all know they are here for revenge, but it’s up to us as the Warriors to face the challenge. It has been long since we lost at home so we are confident of another good performance. DRC is disappointed of course by the weekend result, but we are ready to face them, to take on the task at hand,” Karuru said.
“We just have to continue from where we left although we won’t have our inspirational captain for the game, but I’m sure those who are available can do the job. What is critical is to get a result. Now is not the time to look at names, but to unite as a team. We have to play and fight for each other, and if we can do that, we can pull it off. We will need to focus from the first minute until the end.”
The midfielder was introduced from the bench in Kinshasa, but is expected to start tonight due to suspensions in the squad, with three regular players set to miss the game after picking yellow cards on Saturday.
Besides Musona, the Warriors will be without goalkeeper George Chigova and defender Alec Mudimu, who picked their second yellow cards against DRC, ruling them out of this match.
Thus, Chidzambga will be forced to make major changes to the team that started the last game. Edmore Sibanda is expected to slot in for Chigova, while defensive midfielder Marshall Munetsi, who has played in central defence for his club Orlando Pirates, is likely to be picked to replace Mudimu ahead of Kevin Moyo and Bryan Madzokere.
“I’m up for the challenge if called. There is always pressure when it comes to the national team, especially after our win. There is pressure for us to continue from where we left, but if the supporters can come in numbers like the way it was in DRC, our job will be much easier. We have players in the team who thrive when there are supporters. The nation should come and rally behind us. We have to do this again, together,” Karuru said.
“This is a team that is desperate, so they will come at us so we will need to get a goal as quickly as possible. That was the plan in DRC and we knew if we do that, they will open up and we will get another goal. We will need to score, but at the same time keep our defensive shape.”
Pfumbidzai, who scored a superb volley on the turn from a Khama Billiat free kick to give the Warriors the lead in Kinshasa, is champing to the beat. He wants the team to finish off the job.
“We know they will come all out to get three points, so we will have to contain them. Knowing that a win can give us qualification is giving motivation. We need to do this like yesterday. Everyone is geared up. We don’t need to relax because we won away, we just have to do the same way we did out there. We have to take that attitude to this match,” Pfumbidzai said.
The left back’s goal celebrations captivated the whole country, sitting all his other teammates and appeared to be giving them a lesson.
“When I scored, yeah, that moment I can’t explain the excitement. And then the goal celebration, I always do that.
Most people thought I was joking around, but I was actually telling the other players what to do next. That was a team talk on the field of play. For a moment, I took Sunday’s job (chuckles). I said we have scored so these guys will come at us even more, so lets keep focussed. I told them not to panic.”
Zimbabwe top the group table with seven points, three more than DRC and Congo Brazzaville, while Liberia is on one point.
The group winner and runners up qualify for the Afcon finals so victory for Zimbabwe and a draw or Congo Brazzaville victory in Liberia will see the Warriors book their place, leaving DRC and their neighbours to battle for the other slot.
Warriors probable 11
E Sibanda, R Pfumbidzai, M Munetsi, T Hadebe, T Darikwa, D Phiri, M Nakamba, T Kutinyu, O Karuru, K Billiat, K Mutizwa