Warriors’ pride at stake

Enock Muchinjo

“I AM sorry for you, but I will not weep.” Zimbabwe will probably feel the same way after news from Kigali that Angola have gotten the better of Rwanda to qualify for their maiden World Cup fi

nals at the expense of Nigeria’s Super Eagles.


The Warriors have never been in a more comfortable precinct than they find themselves in. Win or lose, the aftermath of tomorrow’s match in Abuja has the high potential to fracture opposition hearts, but at the same time leave the Warriors scarcely hurt.


The Warriors are comfortable in the knowledge that they can only feel for Nigeria if the home side fails to make it to Germany next year for the world’s premier football showpiece.


If the not-so-daunting feat of an Angola victory occurs in the Rwandan capital, the Angolans will not need to worry about anything, as not even the most comprehensive of wins by Nigeria over Zimbabwe will block their passage to Germany next year.


So confident of accomplishing a grand dream the Angolans are already secretly making plans for the World Cup.


Ironically, the Warriors, with nothing to lose but their pride and perhaps also their above-the-ground continental rating which some critics would want to believe is a bit unearned, must certainly find it gainful for them to get some mileage off the much-fancied Nigerians with a polished performance in Abuja.


The irony lies in that back home in Zimbabwe, many football followers will feel a little disappointed if Angola make it to Germany at the expense of Nigeria. Zimbabwean neutrals feel that the Angolans are not a solid enough outfit to represent the continent in Germany, and they would greatly miss the finesse of the Nigerians at the World Cup. If they had their way, local fans would have preferred the Super Eagles to have their place in the sun in Germany.


In a week of anxiety and hype in Nigeria in the countdown to the match, the media in the populous west African country was in agreement that the destiny of the Super Eagles was out of their hands, but optimism was not in short that victory over Zimbabwe was inevitable.


Last year, the Super Eagles came to Zimbabwe and thumped the Warriors 3-0 in the reverse fixture of this combined World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations qualifier, in a match that cost Warriors coach Rahman Gumbo and his assistant Brenna Msiska their jobs. Ironically, again, it is the match that served as a wake-up call for Zimbabwe and drove them to their second successive Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt next year.


Up until then, Zimbabwe and Nigeria had previously met twice in competitive matches at full international level. In July 1989, in qualifiers for the 1990 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria beat Zimbabwe 3-0 in Nigeria before the two sides drew 1-1 in the second-leg in Harare.


Zimbabwe had in their early years of Independence beaten the Nigerians 1-0 in an international friendly in 1981.


Zimbabwe and Nigeria’s Under-23 sides have played each other a total six times since 1980 in Olympic Games qualifiers. Zimbabwe have lost four of the ties, drawn one, while their only win came in 1999 when a then young, bubbly Air Zim Jets striker, Benjani Mwaruwari scored a brilliant second-half brace at the National Sports Stadium to inspire Zimbabwe to a 2-1 win.


Now with French Ligue 1 giants AJ Auxerre, hitman Mwaruwari leads the Warriors attack into battle tomorrow.


The Warriors’ away form is not extraordinary, the very reason why Zimbabwe were keen to travel with a full-strength side to avoid more embarrassment at the hands of the Super Eagles.


Zimbabwe squad:


Energy Murambadoro, Gift Muzadzi, Method Mwanjali, Charles Yohanne, James Matola, Dumisani Mpofu, Zvenyika Makonese, Clement Matawu, Joel Luphahla, Leo Kurauzvione, Francis Chandida, Ronald Sibanda, Ashley Rambanepasi, Honour Gombami, Shingi Kawondera, Benjani Mwaruwari, Brian Badza, Peter Ndlovu.