Petros Kausiyo in POLOKWANE, South Africa
ZIMBABWE’s Warriors, standing on the threshold of setting a new COSAFA Cup record, have vowed to find their range and overcome Zambia in a Battle of the Zambezi at the new Peter Mokaba Stadium this afternoon.
The Warriors already have the record of being the best team in the tournament after having claimed five championships, while Zambia and South Africa have four each. Should there be a deadlock in the final, the teams would first go into extra time before the penalty shoot-out lottery.
The penalties have brought exciting times for the Warriors and their fans, with George Chigova’s heroics inspiring them to victories.
Winger Talent Chawapiwa, one of the stand-out players from last year’s COSAFA Cup tournament, was yesterday upbeat that they will turn on the power on Chipolopolo today.
“Zambia are a good side, it is the team that we played against in the finals last year. They are a strong team, but we just have to make sure that we are stronger.
“There is no problem (with the attack). I think we just have to make sure that we create chances and also take advantage of those that come our way. Yes, we have realised that we are not scoring more as compared to last year and the solution lies in just converting chances and trying to score,’’ Chawapiwa said.
The forward, who turned 26 on the day that Zimbabwe began their 2018 COSAFA campaign on June 3, admitted they were missing the services of Ovidy Karuru in midfield.
“We are missing our captain because he was one of the key players, but we just have to brace and play without him. We also have to be careful because Zambia’s wingers are too fast and they are more like ours,’’ Chawapiwa said.
Sweden-based striker Tinotenda Kadewere, likely to be handed his first start of the tournament, said today’s game would also provide the Warriors with a chance to underline their qualities.
“I personally think Zambia is a good team and to be in the final it shows they have the quality to be there, but we also need to play our game and make sure we get a victory.
“It’s just a matter of time before we score, we all know it’s the most important thing in the game of football, so I think we should just keep believing and utilise the chances that we get.
“As players, we always have our own discussion before every game, encouraging each other to push and work harder, and we know Zambia are even tougher than our past opponents, so we need to be 100 percent focused tomorrow,’’ Kadewere said.
Chipolopolo coach Beston Chambeshi is confident his Class of 2018 could make up for last year’s loss to the Warriors.
“We have prepared well for the final and we have been growing gradually into the tournament,” Chambeshi said.
“If we play as well as we played against Madagascar, I think we are in for an exciting final. We lost the previous final to Zimbabwe, but this is a different team to the one that reached that final. We have a strong team that can push them to the last minute of the game and we are ready for them,’’ Chambeshi said.
This will be the eighth time that these two nations have clashed in the COSAFA Cup, with their previous three meetings in 2009, 2013 and 2017, all coming in the final of the competition.
Zimbabwe edge the head-to-head 3-2 in the previous seven games, with two matches drawn and have also outscored their opponents.
That the previous seven encounters have produced just 12 goals shows how tight they have generally been
That being said, there have been 10 goals scored in the last three encounters, which includes a 3-1 victory for Zimbabwe in the 2017 COSAFA Cup final in Rustenburg.
Zambia defeated Zimbabwe 2-0 in the 2013 COSAFA Cup final in Ndola, while Zimbabwe triumphed 3-1 in Harare in the final in 2009. The teams also met in the final in 2005, when Zimbabwe won 1-0 in Mmabatho, giving the Warriors a 3-1 head-to-head winning ratio in COSAFA Cup finals over Zambia.
However, the last 10 meetings between the two teams have been slightly more in favour of the Zimbabweans, though with four wins to three for Zambia and three draws.
They have edged the scoring count 10-9.
Chidzambwa has also never lost a COSAFA Cup match in what is his fourth championship, taking the team to the trophy in 2003, 2009 and 2017 for a remarkable record that has seen him go 17 games unbeaten in the competition.
Although they are yet to win a match outright at this year’s edition, there is a belief among Chidzambwa’s men that this could be their hour.