‘CHAL­LENGE AC­CEPTED’ Kat­sande prom­ises won­ders from un­der­dog War­riors

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ishe­mu­n­y­oro Ching­were

WAR­RIORS cap­tain Wil­lard “Bute” Kat­sande has re­fused to be cowed into sub­mis­sion after they were drawn to face three con­ti­nen­tal heavy­weights at the 2017 Na­tions Cup fi­nals in Gabon.

The War­riors, due to mark their third Af­con ap­pear­ance, will have to ne­go­ti­ate their way to a first quar­ter fi­nal berth in a group head­lined by pre-tour­na­ment favourites Al­ge­ria who boast of a ven­omous at­tack led by English cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City’s Riyad Mahrez and Is­lam Sli­mani.

Africa’s sec­ond-ranked team Sene­gal, and fourthranked north African pow­er­house Tu­nisia are also in Group B.

It’s a draw that evoked mem­o­ries of the War­riors’ 2004 and in 2006 dances at the Af­con fi­nals when they were drawn in very tough groups and sub­se­quently bowed out at the first hur­dle.

In 2004 the War­riors, then un­der the men­tor­ship of Sun­day Chidzambwa, were against a Samuel Eto’o in­spired Cameron who at the time was at the peak of their pow­ers in a group that also fea­tured giants Egypt and Al­ge­ria.

In 2006 Charles Mh­lauri led the War­riors in a group com­pris­ing heavy­weight West Africans Sene­gal, Nige­ria and Ghana.

Kat­sande, while ac­cept­ing the War­riors are pre­tour­na­ment favourites for the first flight back home, said it was the per­fect draw for the War­riors as it af­fords them the op­por­tu­nity to write a Cinderella story that the world will talk about for years to come.

“There is no doubt we are the un­der­dogs but we ac­cept the chal­lenge,” said Kat­sande from his base in Jo­han­nes­burg mo­ments after the draw.

“We will do won­ders, mark my words, we will make Zim­babwe proud.

“Real­ity is sink­ing in for us now and we need to calm our nerves. We are lucky that ev­ery­one will look at us and think we are pushovers, a view that is ob­vi­ously di­vorced from real­ity.

“We are go­ing there to fight with ev­ery­thing at our dis­posal, most of us (War­riors play­ers) have played Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball and we know what to ex­pect from North Africans and West Africans.

“I have con­fi­dence that we have the req­ui­site qual­ity to com­pete in Africa on the same foot­ing with th­ese so-called giants.”

With al­most all his re­sponses un­der­ly­ing that the War­riors need to make a mark at the Gabon fi­nals, Kat­sande said the prospects of fac­ing world stars like Liver­pool’s Sa­dio Mane of Sene­gal and English Pro­fes­sional Foot­ballers As­so­ci­a­tion Player of the Year Mahrez would in­spire them.

“Why should we be afraid of those guys?,” he queried.

“This is a golden op­por­tu­nity for us to an­nounce our ar­rival on the big stage be­cause ev­ery­body will watch a match in which a player like Mahrez is play­ing so we are ac­tu­ally happy that fi­nally we are get­ting the stage that we al­ways longed for.”

Coach Cal­listo Pa­suwa’s men had an im­pres­sive qual­i­fy­ing run which saw them rake 11 points with three wins, two draws and a sin­gle de­feat.

They scored 11 goals and con­ceded four, but this record looks like chil­dren’s play when pit­ted against their group B neme­sis.

In group A Tu­nisia qual­i­fied with 13 points after amass­ing four wins, one draw and a

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