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Mafu warns of Zebra kicks

by Staff reporter
25 Mar 2021 at 05:51hrs | Views
FORMER Warriors assistant coach Bongani Mafu has warned Zimbabwe against taking the Zebras of Botswana for granted ahead of tonight's crucial Group H Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Francistown.

The Warriors need a win to thrust themselves closer to qualifying for the finals which will be hosted by Cameroon. Their last match will be against Zambia on Monday, who also have an interest in the single slot still available in the group.

Mafu, who has had coaching stints in Botswana, said the Zebra's game had vastly improved, warning that the Warriors could underrate them at their own peril.

"We need to respect Botswana in terms of football. Botswana have changed vastly in terms of football. They have boys who have participated in the Under-15, Under-17 and Under-20 with others playing outside the country. They are a system. That says a lot about the team. We should not take them for granted. Botswana now have proper systems. I wish Zimbabwe well, but if we slip they will beat us," Mafu said.

Despite confronting Botswana in their backyard with a depleted side, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic exuded confidence.

Zimbabwe will be without the bulk of its foreign-based players who include Tino Kadewere, Marvellous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi, Tendai Darikwa, David Moyo and Admiral Muskwe, while injuries to key players such as Khama Billiat, Divine Lunga, Knox Mutizwa and Prince Dube have also not helped the situation.

"I am not scared about the result because I am 100% sure the players who came will represent their mother Zimbabwe properly in the next two games against Botswana and Zambia," Logarusic told journalist in Harare on Tuesday.

He said although he did not have almost the entire team that played champions Algeria in the last match and managed to share the spoils, he remained optimistic.

"In attack we had Kadewere, David Moyo and Prince Dube. Knox Mutizwa also our number four striker and then our Khama Billiat we have about five choices that are not here with us. Check the full-backs, we have no players who played against Algeria and in midfield, we should have Nakamba and Marshall who are not there. It is not easy and I am talking of big names who can play in any country. And it's a big blow for us, but this is the reason we are here with the help of a few experienced players and our captain (Knoweldge Musona) they will produce a good result. We are not crying. We have to believe in ourselves. I believe in myself. I saw the atmosphere. I have spoken to the boys, they are ready, they are committed, they are facing some problems, but problems we have to face them but I am very sure we will fix the problem," Logarusic said.

The Warriors coach added that he had watched Botswana and he believed they were likely to play a more open game than the previous match which ended in a 0-0 stalemate.

"I am not sure they will repeat the same game they played here because they want to get the three points. They are likely to play an open game and if they do that they will open up space for us. My only fear is how these boys will react, but we are not saying they won't produce. It's no reason for me not to have confidence. I spoke to them, they have energy, they will do the job," the Croat said.

Zimbabwe are second in Group H with five points, many points behind log leaders Algeria, who have already qualified.

With top two teams from each group set to qualify to the Afcon finals, the Warriors will book their ticket if they beat Botswana and Zambia fail to beat Algeria on the same day.

Botswana's Zebras have four points, while Zambia's Chipolopolo are at the bottom of the group with three.

The Warriors have not played competitive football against Botswana since 2010 when the Zebras beat the Zimbabwe senior national team 2-0 in an international friendly match played on their home turf. Before that, the Warriors had beaten Botswana 1-0 in a Cosafa Cup tie at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo in 2009.

Between 2010 and now, the two only met in friendly matches until June 2018 when the two sides settled for a 1-1 draw in a Cosafa Cup quarter-final tie in South Africa before the Warriors progressed to the semi-finals with a 3-1 win in penalty shoot-outs.

Evans Rusike, who is part of the squad that travelled to Botswana yesterday, scored the solitary goal in regulation time in that Cosafa Cup game.

In the friendlies, the Warriors lost 1-0 to the Zebras in April 2018 and in September 2014, having last beaten the Batswanas 2-1 in February 2013 in another international friendly match.

Their next competitive match was the Afcon qualifier in November 2019 when the Warriors, then under Joey Antipas, were held to a goalless draw at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

The Warriors went on to beat Zambia 2-1 away from home before the qualifiers were shelved for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They lost 3-1 away to Algeria last November and forced a 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium, under Logarusic.

The Zebras have won one game against Zambia and lost the return leg and to Algeria before sharing the spoils with Zimbabwe.

The Warriors also have only one win against Zambia and have managed two draws against Botswana and Algeria, and thus have five points.

Source - newsday