Ready to Rumble

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE vice captain Ovidy Karuru says the Warriors are clear on their mission and will not be reckless tomorrow when they face hosts Liberia at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia. A point will suffice for the Warriors in their quest for a place at the African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon next year.

The Group G encounter will start at 6pm Zimbabwean time and will be broadcast live on Supersport 9.

Zimbabwe lead the group with eight points, three ahead of second-placed DRC, who have an earlier kick-off in a big battle against their neighbours Congo in a do-or-die Central African derby in Brazzaville tomorrow.

Liberia anchor the group table with four points, but they still believe they can overcome the Warriors and spark a late surge for a mathematical chance of qualifying.

But the Warriors, who flew into Monrovia on Wednesday, are in no mood to take any prisoners.

The group leaders have a strong chance to write their own piece of history by finishing their qualification campaign unbeaten and tomorrow’s game presents them with their last test of character on the road. Karuru, speaking from Monrovia after their afternoon workout at the match venue yesterday, said the Warriors are determined to get the qualification job over and done with as quickly as possible to avoid putting themselves under undue pressure in their final assignment against Congo-Brazzaville next year.

“The guys are very prepared for this game because we don’t want to use calculators when we go to the last game. We would like to finish the campaign at home without pressure. “So the guys know what is at stake, we just need one point. But we did not come here for one point only. We came here to win the game so we all know we just need to finish strong and make sure we secure the first position before the last game. We have put aside the travelling and shifted the focus on the game,” said Karuru.

Zimbabwe have had a fine run in the qualifiers where they are the only team unbeaten in the group after four games.

They got off to a flying start with a 3-0 thrashing of Liberia at the National Sports Stadium in June last year, thanks to a fine Knowledge Musona’s hat-trick.

They then forced an away 1-1 draw in Brazzaville in September.

But their qualification bid solidified after the back-to-back qualifiers against group seeds DRC. The Warriors posted a surprise 3-1 away win before holding the star-studded Leopards to a 1-1 draw at the National Sports Stadium. Karuru who plies his trade with South African Premiership side AmaZulu, said the players had been working hard to guard against complacency and the motivation of a second Nations Cup appearance on the trot following the 2017 jaunt in Gabon, has helped them maintain focus.

“We are here to represent our country. We just want to put our nation on the map and to be recognised in Africa if we qualify for the AFCON finals.

“We are focused now more on what we have to do now and not on what we have done before. So we are ready to face the challenge. Whatever they bring, we will also bring our A game on Sunday,” said Karuru.

The Warriors arrived in the West Africa country on Thursday evening after a 20-hour flight and had a full workout at the match venue yesterday.

Coach Sunday Chidzambwa was happy with the situation after welcoming the Europe based contingent that included defender Alec Mudimu, Marvelous Nakamba and skipper Musona.

The return of Musona and Mudimu, who missed the last qualifiers against DRC because of suspensions, has also helped boost the confidence levels in the Warriors dressing room.

Mudimu’s solidity and organisation at the back were missed against DRC at the National Sports Stadium as were talisman Musona’s leadership and firepower.

The Warriors attack has also been amplified by the return of key forwards, Tino Kadewere and Evans Rusike, who have recovered from injuries.

Former captain Willard Katsande is also in the line for selection to add grit to a midfield that will miss the injured Danny Phiri.

Katsande will provide the shield to the defence as Marshall Munetsi, who has been playing in defensive midfield of late, is likely to be deployed to the right back to cover for the suspended Tendayi Darikwa.

“For me, I think it’s for the better and having someone like Katsande who is very experienced. I think he will fit in very well in this game. As you know these kind of games have a lot of intimidation and I think these guys already know what type of game to expect.

“The millions of Zimbabweans must just pray for us so that we finish the campaign away from home and so that when we return for the last game we will play to enjoy ourselves,” said Chidzambwa.

The Warriors have dominated the duels, with the Lone Star having won two by identical 3-0 scorelines at home in 2011 and 2017 and drawing one away.

Liberia have proved they are no pushovers at home as they are unbeaten in Monrovia in the current campaign. They drew 1-1 with DRC and beat Congo-Brazzaville 2-1 in their last qualifier. “I believe that they have a changed team and that they brought most of their foreign-based players. We also have ours as you know most of the guys we have are foreign-based and I think we are going to match them. We have to match them in each and every aspect of the game. As long as we play like we did in the last two games against the two Congos, definitely we will produce a good result for the nation,” said Chidzambwa.

Liberia last qualified for the AFCON finals in 2002 and they are still hopeful of sneaking into next year’s edition.

The coach Thomas Kojo has called up a host of foreign-based players, who include Boison Wynney De Souza of RCD Mallorca II, Teah Dennis playing in Oman, England-based Mohammed Sangare who plays for Newcastle United, Murphy Oscar Dorey of Slovan Liberec, Sylvanus Nimely of Spartak Moscow II, Anthony Laffor of South Africa’s Mamelodi Sundowns, William Jebor of Wydad Athletic Casablanca, Terrence Tisdell of San Joanense of Portugal, and Seku Conneh of South Korea’s Ansan Greener. Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye will take charge of the encounter and will be assisted by compatriots Djibril Camara and El Hadji Malick Samba. Alioune Sow Sandigui was assigned as the 4th official.

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