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Go Warriors Go!

by Staff reporter
10 Jan 2022 at 06:04hrs | Views
AFTER all the boardroom squabbles that threatened Zimbabwe's participation at this year's edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals that kicked off in Yaoundé yesterday, the Warriors will begin yet another campaign when they face off with Senegal in their opening Group B match, hoping to cruise to the group stage.

Kick-off is 3pm Zimbabwe time at the Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium.

The Warriors risked missing out on the tournament in Cameroon after Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) threatened to ban Zimbabwe if the elected Zifa executive committee failed to regain control of the sport from the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) by January 3.

This did not happen, but Zimbabwe has been allowed to participate. Warriors coach Norman Mapeza said his side was not affected by the off-field sideshows and was looking forward to seeing his boys cause a major upset against the Lions of Terranga.

Speaking after the team's final preparation at the match venue yesterday, Mapeza said: "We are done with our final preparation. We were working on the set pieces. We have been doing a lot of analysis on the Senegal team and I'm more than happy with what I have seen. The guys are raring to go. It's all about mental strengths and that is what I have been telling the boys."

On paper, Senegal are favourites to win, not this match, but the tournament. But Mapeza believes reputation counts for nothing.

"Senegal is one of the top-ranked teams in Africa but if we are going to go out there with that in mind, then it will be a wrong mindset. It's a game of football, so like I said we just have to go out there with a positive mind that we can match them. Any result in football is achievable, so we have to go with the right mindset and a positive mind."

The Senegalese camp has been hit with COVID-19 and injuries. Only 16 players took part in their final preparation for this afternoon's match.

The runners-up at the 2019 edition of the tournament will be without Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly after both players tested positive for coronavirus yesterday.

Striker Famara Diedhiou has also gone into isolation.

Senegal travelled to Cameroon on Wednesday without six other players who returned positive tests before their departure.

Second choice goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, Saliou Ciss, Bamba Dieng, Mame Baba Thiam, Pape Matar Sarr and Nampalys Mendy were all left behind in Dakar.

Meanwhile, Watford forward Ismaila Sarr and Abdoulaye Seck are not fully fit.

But Mapeza said he will not celebrate the setback that has hit his opponents.

"I cant say it's a positive plus on our side. Some people have lost their lives (because of COVID-19), so I don't think we can celebrate that Senegal has lost some of their key players because of COVID-19. It's sad and I wish those guys that have been affected by COVID-19 a speedy recovery. If we go out there with a mentality that some of their players will not be playing then we will be in for it. We have to go out there with maximum concentration, go there with a positive mind and see what happens after the 90 minutes," Mapeza said.

Senegal coach Coach Aliou Cisse said: "It's a difficult and complicated situation."

But he added: "We are going to be competitive and those there are going to play for those who are absent. We are still going into the game against Zimbabwe full of confidence."

The west Africans might miss some players, but have enough arsenal to hurt the Warriors with the likes of Sadio Mane, Cheikhou Kouyate and Idrissa Gueye available for selection.

The Warriors are also going into the match heavily handicapped after a number of regular players failed to travel due to various reasons.

The marque midfield duo of Marvelous Nakamba and Marshal Munetsi of Stade Reims both pulled out of the Warriors squad due to injuries, while Khama Billiat quit international football.

Tendayi Darikwa also did not travel citing personal reasons, and Bournemouth star Jordan Zemura is still to arrive in Cameroon after a COVID-19 outbreak at his club. The utility player is still holed up in England and it's not clear when, if ever, he will join up with the Warriors squad.

Mapeza said the available players were strong enough to compete.

Zimbabwe Predicted XI: P Mhari, B Kangwa, Alec Mudimu, Takudzwa Chimwemwe, Teenage Hadebe, Kelvin Madzongwe, Thabani Kamusoko, Ismael Wadi, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Tinotenda Kadewere, Knowledge Musona

Source - Newsday Zimbabwe