HomeSportWarriors brace for crucial fixture

Warriors brace for crucial fixture

Enock Muchinjo/ Ndamu Sandu

AS Zimbabwe’s Warriors get ready to clash with Gabon in a fortnight, indications are that preparations are not likely to change for the crucial tie that will make or break Z

imbabwe’s chances of making a second appearance at the African Nations Cup.

The Warriors go into battle without any friendly match organised by Zifa since their last fixture against Angola in March.

Zifa acting chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze said the Warriors would go into camp on Wednesday in preparation for the crucial match.

Mashingaidze said foreign-based players had confirmed their participation as of last month.

The June 5 clash has been highly anticipated on the Zimbabwe football calendar since the Warriors brought their campaign back on track with a well-executed 2-0 win over then group leaders Angola in Harare.

With tough away fixtures to Nigeria and Algeria coming up later in the year, Zimbabwe should at all costs bag all three points against the Gabonese, who they held to a one- all draw in the reverse fixture in Libreville last year.

Cyprus-based striker Shingi Kawondera claimed a late equaliser in Libreville, before he later proved that his exploits in Gabon were no fluke, coming off the bench in the second half with an inspired show that mesmerised the tough Angolans in March.

The 2-0 victory over the Angolans was a welcome victory and put the Warriors’ battle for qualification for the African Cup of Nations back on track.

Kawondera’s presence for the Gabon match is almost certain, as the former youth international is on a high and would hate to check his steady rise on the international stage, especially after the disappointment of missing out on a Nations Cup berth in Tunisia last year due to injury.

Qualifying for Egypt will be a good opportunity for young players like Kawondera and the Kaizer Chiefs-bound wingback Cephas Chimedza.

Despite the short camping time and poor preparations, which the Warriors have become accustomed to, the Zimbabweans should find it easy at home against the Gabonese, who are ranked 24 in Africa, 15 places below Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe captain Peter Ndlovu had a difficult first season in the South African premier league, where the media reckoned he was a flop.

However, like a professional that he is, Ndlovu kept his cool and soldiered on, playing a supportive role to other Sundowns strikers, and occasionally scoring goals himself.

That is the role that Ndlovu plays for Zimbabwe.

But then the problem is that Benjani Mwaruwari, the AJ Auxerre striker, might not be available for the crucial Gabon match due to club commitments in France over the same weekend.

That will leave the Zimbabwe attack severely handicapped, forcing coach Charles Mhlauri to make decisions like having Kawondera in the starting line-up.

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