War­riors rat­tle their shields

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJABULO NGIDI

ZIM­BABWE coach Cal­listo Pa­suwa is a glass half-full kind of guy. De­spite the War­riors drop­ping two points in their 2-2 draw with Al­ge­ria, he looked at it as a point gained against a strong side that is among the favourites to win the Africa Cup of Na­tions in Gabon.

Zim­babwe came from a goal down to lead 2-1 in Franceville on Sun­day.

The War­riors had a num­ber of chances to wrap up the game. Khama Billiat twisted and turned Al­ge­rian de­fend­ers be­fore un­leash­ing a pow­er­ful shot that was bril­liantly saved by goal­keeper Rais M’Bolhi. Cuth­bert Mala­jila came the clos­est, miss­ing a sit­ter, be­fore the Dessert War­riors stole a point.

Zim­babwe’s spir­ited per­for­mance re­moved all the neg­a­tiv­ity that sur­rounded their build-up to the tour­na­ment.

First, they couldn’t train at the Na­tional Sta­dium in Harare be­cause of the Zim­babwe Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s fi­nan­cial woes. The play­ers then boy­cotted their send-off that was at­tended by deputy pres­i­dent Emmerson Mnan­gagwa and sev­eral ministers as they de­manded bet­ter pay and bonuses.

A last-minute ar­range­ment was made and the play­ers de­parted for Cameroon to play a friendly with the In­domitable Li­ons that ended 1-1. But be­fore they could start the tour­na­ment their kit spon­sor, Mafro Sports, could not de­liver the kit in time, forc­ing the War­riors to play with un­branded jer­seys. All of that drama did not spoil the play­ers’ mood.

“That point was im­por­tant to us,” Pa­suwa said.

“It’s a morale-booster and we hope this has mo­ti­vated the boys. We hope to do bet­ter in our next games. Re­mem­ber we came to the tour­na­ment with an un­der­dog tag, but I am happy we played well against Al­ge­ria.”

Sene­gal showed dom­i­nance in Group C, reg­is­ter­ing the first win of the tour­na­ment when they beat Tu­nisia 2-0. The Li­ons of Teranga had to hold on in the sec­ond half when a ram­pant Tu­nisian side searched for an equaliser. Sene­gal’s de­fence stood res­o­lute.

Sene­gal clash with Zim­babwe in Franceville on Thurs­day. A win for the Li­ons of Teranga will put them in the last eight, while the War­riors need to earn max­i­mum points to stand a chance of mak­ing it into the quar­ter-fi­nals.

Zim­babwe went into this group ex­pected to be the whip­ping boys of Group C even though they have grown, how­ever their draw with Al­ge­ria shows that they are a force to be reck­oned with. HAPPY MEN: Guinea-Bis­sau’s Juary Soares and Jonas Men­des cel­e­brate af­ter draw­ing with Gabon in their open­ing fix­ture at this year’s Africa Cup of Na­tions. To­mor­row they face four-time cham­pi­ons Cameroon.

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