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Qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) is normally hinged on how many points a team manages to pick away from home.
BY Kevin Mapasure
A cursory look at Group G of the qualifiers that features log leaders Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Congo Brazzaville and Liberia, points to a situation where away points will determine who wins the two tickets to the Cameroon finals.
Ahead of the second round of qualifiers, Liberia and Congo Brazzaville will be looking to emulate the Warriors and DRC who both made good use of their home advantage to collect maximum points in the opening round.
For DRC and the Warriors, this will be a key fixture that carries an important set of three points that could see the two push their opponents to the edge with away wins while strengthening their own cause.
The Warriors’ match against Congo will be a key and crucial one in determining their destiny as they seek back-to-back qualification to the finals after Kalisto Pasuwa took them to the 2017 finals in Gabon.
Nothing can be taken for granted, but DRC, who are regulars at the finals, will be favourites to qualify from this group and it seems the battle for the second spot is between Zimbabwe and Congo.
This is what makes this fixture an important one.
Sunday Chidzambga’s men will expect themselves to collect all three points when they host Congo next year, but they will want to do that already holding an advantage over their rivals.
Winning an away match is very difficult in Africa, especially in these Afcon qualifiers, and those that achieve the task usually make it to the finals.
A win for the Warriors in Brazzaville tomorrow will do Zimbabwe a world of wonders.
They will not only push themselves closer to qualifying, but also leave their opponents closer to elimination so early into the qualifiers.
But winning in Congo against a side desperate to breathe life into their mission and who are playing their first match at home in these qualifiers may prove to be a difficult task for the Warriors.
They face a side that narrowly missed out on qualification for the last edition having gone through the qualifiers without tasting defeat at home.
Chidzambga knows everything about his opponents and that is why he stressed that even a single point in tomorrow’s match will be a good achievement.
“We are going to face a very good side. We won’t take them lightly, they are highly rated in Africa, so it won’t be an easy match for us,” Chidzambga observed this week before stressing the need to pick points away from home.
“In the Afcon qualifiers, you need to pick up as many points, especially away from home. If we can pick maximum points, I would be very pleased. In modern football, you have to do both, defend and attack and we have to do that cautiously. We are playing away from home. We need not open the game up.”
Chidzambga is a master of defensive football and in such a situation, it’s anybody’s guess how the Warriors will set up.
Stifling the opposition is likely to be their main brief, but if they can frustrate their opponents for long, opportunities will present themselves up front.
With Khama Billiat and captain Knowledge Musona, who is the current leading goalscorer in these qualifiers, the Warriors still carry the threat up front.