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Zimbabwe eye group qualifiers

Ndamu Sandu

AFTER last week’s vintage performance by the Warriors in Mali, the Young Warriors will be under pressure to emulate them when they face Ethiopia in the secon

d leg of the first round 2004 Olympic Games soccer qualifier in Addis Ababa on Sunday.

With odds stacked heavily against them after administrative boobs disrupted their preparations for the first leg, the Young Warriors overcame the setback to tame Ethiopia 2-1 at Rufaro Stadium two weeks ago.

Any slip up in Addis Ababa could end Zimbabwe’s quest for qualification for the group phase of the qualifiers for the Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The Young Warriors have been in a similar situation before. In the qualifying rounds of the All Africa Games against Zambia, Zimbabwe won 2-1 at Rufaro Stadium only to lose 1-0 in Lusaka. They bowed out on the away goals rule.

A draw will be enough to see the Young Warriors through to the next phase.

Coach Willard Khumalo and his technical team should ensure that Zimbabwe keep things tight at the back and convert the chances that might come their way. They blew away several opportunities in the first leg.

Since independence the team has failed to book a place at the Olympics and has on numerous occasions faltered at the last hurdle.

In 1999, the Young Warriors led their group since the beginning of the competition only to crumble like a deck of cards in their last match against Nigeria when they lost 4-0 in Lagos.

The Young Warriors’ cause could be buoyed by the appointment this week of veteran coach Belgian Valeer Von Billen, as acting technical advisor. He has previously coached in Cote d’Ivoire.

Inspirational goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini who played well in the first leg is set to retain his place.

Captain Nyasha Chazika and Vusa Nyoni are set be the two wingbacks with Thomas Svesve and Gilbert Banda at the heart of defence in a 4-4-2 formation.

Leo Kurauzvione and Tinashe Nengomasha are likely to be the two defensive midfielders with Eddie Mashiri and Honour Gombami coming in as attacking midfielders.

Clement Mutawu will also be hoping to find a place in this department.

Poland-based hitman Shingi Kawondera who put up a sterling performance in the first leg, will again carry the hopes of a nation with his striking partner Sifiso Mguni.

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