CHARLES Mhlauri emerges out of the tunnel at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday afternoon aware that only a win against Angola in the combined World Cup/Africa Nations Cup qualifier will ap
pease thousands of local football followers around the country.
The interim Zimbabwe coach has not won in four matches since assuming the hot seat from Rahman Gumbo in September last year, losing two competitive matches to Angola in Luanda and Zambia in the Cosafa Castle Cup last year.
Pressure is on the dreadlocked coach to win his first match and aid Zimbabwe’s chances to at least qualify for the Nations Cup, to be held in Egypt next year.
Zimbabwe currently languish in fourth position in Group Four and are in danger of missing out on the continental showcase if they fail to beat Angola.
Mhauri will depend on his foreign-based contingent to rescue Zimbabwe’s hopes. Captain Peter Ndlovu, struggling with form in the South African league, leads an attack outwardly spoiled for options.
In-form striker Benjani Mwaruwaru, scoring consistently at top French side AJ Auxerre, has boosted the team’s confidence by his mere presence, although he could start on the bench due to a minor injury and previous combination failure with skipper Ndlovu upfront.
Other strikers in the team are Cyprus-based Shingi Kawondera and Zenzo Moyo and the Caps United duo of Leonard Tsipa and Brian Badza.
In the absence of injury-prone right wing back George Mbwando, South African-based Edelbert Dinha is likely to play in the position on his return to the team for the first time in five years.
Meanwhile, the Warriors preparations for the Angola tie got a timely boost yesterday with an injection of $300 million from mobile communications giant Net*One.
Of the sponsorship, $200 million caters for preparations for the match while $100 million is a winning bonus.
Zimbabwe’s probable line-up:
Energy Murambadoro, Edelbert Dinha, Cephas Chimedza, Dumisani Mpofu, Zvenyika Makonese, Esrom Nyandoro, Tinashe Nengomasha, Joel Luphahla, Edzai Kasinauyo, Shingi Kawondera, Peter Ndlovu.