ODDS will be against Zimbabwe when they take to the battlefield against Mali at the Modiba Keita Stadium in Bamako on Sunday for an African Nations Cup socce
Mali’s success on home soil is well documented and they have claimed the scalps of South Africa and held Nigeria to a draw in the past.
Sunday Marimo’s men had everything going for them in the qualifiers until a humiliating 2-1 defeat by continental minnows Seychelles in Victoria a fortnight ago which all but left their campaign in tatters.
That defeat left the team with a formidable task of shooting down Mali in their backyard if they are to regain an advantage over their bitter rivals.
Mali currently lead the four-nation group on nine points from four matches, courtesy of a superior goal aggregate.
The Warriors, who have also lost one of their four matches, are tied on points with Mali but have conceded three goals compared to their adversaries who have let in just one. After the defeat in Victoria, Zimbabwe’s technical team said the current crop of players did not have the resolve to soldier on and were casual in front of goal against Seychelles.
The Warriors’ cause has however been boosted by financial support from the government and other sectors ahead of their departure for Mali yesterday.
Marimo this week refused to comment on Zimbabwe’s chances and instead referred questions to team manager Rafiq Adam.
Adam told IndependentSport this week that the players had put the defeat in Victoria behind them.
“Morale in camp is high. It has always been high,” he said.
Adam said the Warriors would have to make do without wingback George Mbwando who pulled a hamstring on Monday and AJ Auxerre hitman Benjani Mwaruwari who was injured in Victoria.
“Mwaruwari and Mbwando will certainly miss the crucial tie due to injury,” Adam said.
Speaking at a “Go Well” party for the Warriors, skipper Peter Ndlovu said the ball was now in the players’ court.
“The motivation is there and it’s up to the players to produce the results needed,” he said.
The Warriors have to win the tie or at least draw to keep themselves in contention for a place in the finals in Tunisia next year as group winners or the best runners up.
Caps United goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro is a sure bet for a place in the starting line-up.
Charles Yohane should retain his place on the left side of the defence.
Reigning Soccer Star of the Year Dazzy Kapenya who missed the Victoria match through suspension returns to the heart of the team’s defence.
Kapenya could partner hard tackling Kaitano Kaitano, Dumisani Mpofu and Bekithemba Ndlovu in the rearguard.
The midfield department welcomes back exciting Johannes Ngodzo who missed the last match through suspension.
The midfield maestro should get assistance from combative Caps hardman Lloyd Chitembwe and Czech-based Kennedy Chihuri or Lazarus Muhoni, who scored the solitary goal in a reverse fixture against Mali last year.
Francis Chandida and Esrom Nyandoro are also available for selection in this department.
In attack skipper Peter Ndlovu has the task of unlocking the Malian defence with the assistance of recalled Zenzo Moyo.
Adam Ndlovu will probably get a chance to redeem himself after blowing away chances in Victoria.