A tough task awaits the Warriors in their back- to-back 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier Group G showdown against the more illustrious Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) tomorrow and Tuesday.
Captain Knowledge Musona and his Warriors plunge into the lion’s den in Kinshasa as joint group G leaders on four points with their opponents but the Warriors are atop by virtue of a superior goal difference.
With a point apiece, Congo Brazaville and Liberia will lock horns in their own back-to-back double header but the race for the sole Group G ticket to Cameroon 2019 now appears to be a two-horse race between the legendary Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa’s men and their DRC nemesis.
The Complexe Omnisports Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa, where the Warriors will be guests has provided little if any comfort for previous visitors and the Warriors would be ill informed to expect an easy ride.
The DRC have not lost or drawn an Afcon Qualifier match at home since October 11, 2014 when they fell 2-1 through goals from former Manchester City forward Wilfried Bony and Max-Alain Gradel formerly with English Premiership side AFC Bournemouth.
Despite the odds heavily stuck against his men, Chidzambwa said it would be foolhardy to start writing the Warriors epitaph before the eagerly awaited contest.
Chidzambwa said his men will not carry the caution card into the match but will rather pursue a positive approach to the match in search of a positive result that could thrust his men on the verge of qualification which could be his second since his first as coach in Tunisia 2004.
Coincidentally Chidzambwa’s first was the Warriors’ first ever appearance by the senior men’s football team at Africa’s premier bi-annual football jamboree.
“We can’t dwell on our previous game, that’s played and gone and we can’t change it, so we will have to look forward to another tough game against DRC,” said Chidzambwa before departure for the DRC.
“It’s always going to be a tough game whenever these two countries play and I think everyone will be looking forward to getting out there and put on a good show. Every game is a must-win.
“Winning will give us momentum, we want to avoid a defeat at all cost but if we fail to win, then it has to be a draw,” he said.
Chidzambwa also took time to speak on the controversial selection of players that are struggling for game time at their respective clubs while ignoring some that have hit a purple patch of form.
Talismanic skipper Musona has just recently started getting some minutes at his Belgian side Anderlecht and the same as fit again midfield workhorse Marvellous Nakamba at Club Brugge.
While there can never be questions over the inclusion of the talismanic duo, there have been questions over the call ups extended to South African based Ronald Pfumbidzai and midfield anchorman Marshal Munetsi.
Munetsi has not been featuring for Orlando Pirates while stylish Talent Chawapihwa has been frozen out of the starting line-up at Baroka after a run-in with his club coach.
While the above made it into the Warriors squad, the likes of Kuda Mahachi and Tino Kadewere appear to have been excluded owing to club inaction.
“You have to be hard working to earn a place in the team. I know there are players who have not been heavily involved in their respective teams,” Chidzambwa said.
“It doesn’t really matter if the player has been playing or not. It’s very easy to distinguish players I have worked with. I can tell by their previous performances at COSAFA and AFCON qualifier. I have been working with them for some time,” he said.
The Warriors will have to make do without Supersport United striker Evans Rusike and left-back Divine Lunga due to injury. Rusike’s unavailability has opened a chance for Knox Mutizwa while Pfumbidzai is expected to slot in at left back in the absence of Lunga.
Red hot Chinese based forward Nyasha Mushekwi remains unavailable owing to injury but is still playing for his club despite the injury.
The Warriors have, however, been boosted by the availability of British-born Tendai Darikwa of Nottingham Forest who has finally secured a Zimbabwean passport which makes him eligible to play for the Warriors.
Darikwa has previously featured for the Warriors in two friendly matches against Namibia and Lesotho.
“We all know playing DRC away from home has always been difficult so we are aware of it, both teams are very similar in a lot of ways so we will not take them lightly,” Darikwa said ahead of his competitive debut.
“We don’t need to be afraid of big matches, such big games will define us and our overall goal is to qualify. Our challenge now is to see how good we can play away from home,” he said.
Meanwhile, Morrocan referee Redouane Jiyed will handle the match assisted by countrymen Yahya Nouali and Essam Benbapa. Samir Guezzaz is the fourth official while Cameroonian Alim Konate Abubakar will be the match commissioner.
For the Harare leg, Egyptian referee Gehad Gerisha will be in charge with assistance from Ahmed Hossam Eldin and Tahssen Abo El Sadat while Ibrahim Nour Eldin will be the fourth official and Namibian Shilunga Eratsus coming in as the match commissioner.
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs).
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars)
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Danny Phiri (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvellous Nakamba (Club Brugge KV)
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Knowledge Musona (RSC Anderlecht), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows).