The Sables, masked as the Goshawks, take on South Africa’s Valke in a friendly match in preparation for a year whose outcome will have significant implications on their World Cup dream.
It’s a tale of mixed fortunes for Zimbabwe’s most followed three national teams this weekend as they take centre stage and embark on a journey to make an impact on the big stage.
All three have haboured World Cup ambitions since the beginning of the year.
However, the Warriors’ Brazil 2014 dream, which could have lingered until next year, only lasted two weeks. Qualifying for Afcon 2013 is now the new priority although it is also a potential source of disappointment since the Warriors will have to come from behind with a 2-1 deficit from the first leg tie against Burundi.
Meanwhile, the national cricket team has been keeping a low profile preparing for a tri-series with Bangladesh and South Africa to be used to gauge by their preparedness for this year’s World Cup to be hosted in Sri Lanka.
Much like the Warriors, the national cricket team has been disappointing of late and this year’s World Cup presents them with a platform to redeem themselves.
Unlike the other two disciplines, rugby has brought more joy to its fans with the Sables making a clean sweep of the pots in front of them last year.
Progress was made in their bid to fulfil their dream to participate in the 2015 World Cup finals in England and a positive showing this year will be crucial if the Sables are to at least compete in the qualifiers.
Today’s fixture marks the beginning of the road to England 2015 as the Sables, under Brendan Dawson’s guidance, engage in their first preparatory match ahead of serious business in the coming months.
The Africa Cup Group 1A has never been more important for the national rugby team and maintenance of a spot in that elite group will see the Sables back in contention for a World Cup finals berth.
Judging by their showing last year and the intensity in the preparation process, the team stands a good chance of competing for the second spot reserved for Africa with South Africa guaranteed of the other one.
They have had their problems chief among them the disharmony which preceded the appointment of the technical team. However, unlike the Warriors’ situation, the dispute was resolved well in time to fine-tune the team for its important commitments.
The Warriors’ poor showing ignited spirited discussions in the last fortnight on the whys and wherefores of their perennial underachieving. Hopefully, they will not disappoint again. But you can never bet against this team firing blanks and getting evicted so early yet again.
After such disappointment, the way has been paved for the team to restore pride and confidence, what with Burundi, a team ranked 131 in the world and one that has never made it to any finals of a major tournament.
Qualifying for Afcon couldn’t have been made easier as a win would see Zimbabwe drawing one of the 16 teams that played at the finals this year.
It could be Botswana, who despite qualifying for the 2012 Afcon finals early this year are still underdogs against Zimbabwe, but then it could also be Ivory Coast or Ghana or even champions Zambia or we could see a replay with Guinea.
Zifa’s suggestions of a “third force” sabotaging the Warriors should be proved wrong with a win this Sunday.