The Zimbabwean national football team got 2021 off to an inauspicious start with a disappointing showing at the African Nations Championship in January. After losing all three games in Cameroon to Mali, Burkina Faso and the host nation, Zimbabwe limped out of the tournament having only managed to score a single goal.
However, The Warriors will be looking to put that setback behind them and concentrate on a bumper footballing year ahead. As well as cementing their places at next year’s African Cup of Nations, they’ll also look to continue their dominance of the COSAFA Cup and make history by reaching the 2022 World Cup Finals for the first time in the country’s history. Here’s a rundown of what Zimbabwean football fans can look forward to in the months ahead.
Zimbabwe have made it to the African Cup of Nations on four previous occasions, though they have yet to proceed past the group stages. Next year, they’ll be hoping to go one better after a 1-0 victory over Botswana in Francistown in March secured their place in the finals for a fifth time after an impressive campaign saw them pip regional rivals Zambia to the post with one game to spare.
Indeed, Zimbabwe’s triumph in the group is being hailed as something of a pleasant surprise, given that Zambia are ranked 33 places higher than them by FIFA and have tasted AFCON success as recently as 2012. However, the stage was set for Zimbabwe’s impressive showing after a fantastic 2-1 away win in Lusaka in November 2019. With qualification now assured, they can set their sights on other prizes this year.
Zimbabwe have a much better track record in the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Cup than they do in either the African Nations Championship or the AFCON. In fact, they remain the most successful team to ever compete in the tournament, having won it six times and finished runners-up on three occasions.
That strong pedigree is the reason why bookmakers like Sportsbet view Zimbabwe as one of the favourites to lift the trophy this summer once more. Given that they have reached the final in each of the three previous competitions, it’d be a brave man who would bet against them repeating the trick this time around, especially with the team looking its strongest in some time.
World Cup Qualifying
Indeed, the robust backbone of the squad – underpinned by players who ply their trade in Europe, such as Teenage Hadebe of Yeni Malatyaspor, Knowledge Musona of Eupen and Marvelous Nakamba of Aston Villa – will need to be on top form if they are to make history by reaching their first ever World Cup in Qatar next year.
With only five places available to the entire continent of Africa, Zimbabwe will have to finish top of a formidable group containing the likes of Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa, both of whom are ranked higher than Zimbabwe by FIFA. Even in the event that they do manage to squeeze past those rivals, their task will not be complete, since they’ll also need to win a two-legged play-off against another group winner, ensuring their path to Doha is an incredibly tricky one. Still, the team has cause for optimism in the strong performances of its stalwarts and the impressive starts made to their national careers by promising youngsters Perfect Chikwende and Prince Dube.