WARRIORS BANK ON HISTORY

Petros Kausiyo in POLOKWANE, South Africa
ZIMBABWE will be banking on history to repeat itself today when they meet Lesotho in a COSAFA Cup semi-final for the third time in six years with the Warriors seeking to underline their dominance over Likuena.

The COSAFA champions will take on the mountain kingdom outfit at the new Peter Mokaba Stadium in the second of the semi-final matches at 5:30pm with Sunday Chidzambwa’s men having a record of not losing a match in this tournament to their opponents.

Zimbabwe’s first COSAFA Cup title also came at the expense of Lesotho with Misheck Chidzambwa guiding his Warriors class of 2000 to a 6-0 aggregate victory in that year’s two-legged final.

Since then the meetings between the two sides have been at the semi-final level with Tendai Ndoro scoring a brace at the Levy Mwanawasa stadium in Ndola, Zambia in 2013.

Last year Golden Arrows striker Knox Mutizwa led the way with a hat-trick as Zimbabwe ground out a 4-3 semi-final win over Likuena.

Despite odds being staked heavily against his side, Lesotho coach Moses Maliehe believes this could be their year to break the jinx.

“It won’t be an easy game. There is huge interest from both camps to try and reach the final,’’ he said.

“Although the international friendly was competitive, this time there is the incentive of reaching the final so it will be a different ball game but I am happy that we have grown in leaps and bounds.

“When we played Swaziland, we were 16 places behind them on the FIFA rankings but we beat team. What I know is that this will be a tough and very tactical game.’’

Warriors kingpin Khama Billiat is, however, bullish and insists he does not want to be a part of a team that would be remembered for spoiling Chidzambwa and the Warriors’ proud COSAFA history.

The veteran coach stretched his unbeaten COSAFA run to 16 straight games with the triumph over Botswana in Sunday’s quarter-final penalty shoot-out win.

“I think the toughest game was the match against Botswana because they had been playing a few games at this tournament and we were getting to play together with the other guys for the first time,’’ said Billiat.

“We don’t usually get to play together unlike teams like Botswana.

“I think we did well and I was impressed with our defensive structure although we need to improve a bit on defending set pieces.’’

The Warriors midfielder said they will respect Lesotho but would not let them stand in their way for a possible sixth COSAFA title.

“Football works differently and Lesotho are not in the semi-final by fluke, they have worked hard and deserve it.

“They are a good side and we need to take the chances that come away. Our coach has a great history with this tournament and the guys who were here last year did very well and we don’t want to come in and be the ones who spoil all that,’’ Billiat said.

With skipper Ovidy Karuru injured and out of the tournament, Chidzambwa is likely to make a few adjustments to the team that started against the Zebras with Tafadzwa Kutinyu, who joined camp on Sunday morning after arriving from Tanzania, likely to get the nod to replace the captain.

SuperSport United striker Evans Rusike has also recovered from the groin strain that had seemed to trouble him towards the end of that match and forced Chidzambwa into replacing him with Terrence Dzvukamanja in the 84th minute.

Rusike has declared that he wants to use this year’s competition, only his second COSAFA tournament, to banish memories of the 2015 tourney in South Africa’s North West province when they failed to get out of the group stage.

“It is always nice scoring at national level. In a tournament every goal counts and I am always happy to be scoring for the national team and knowing that millions of Zimbabweans are supporting you.

“I must say Botswana were tough and I am expecting a similar challenge from Lesotho and they are a stronger team but we have been talking about this game, especially the need for us to bury our chances, and we need to do that early in the game to avoid pressure,’’ Rusike said.

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