Mushangazhike be­lieves in squad Pa­suwa has faith in his troops

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ed­die Chikamhi Se­nior Sports Re­porter

FOR­MER Zim­babwe in­ter­na­tional Gil­bert Mushangazhike says the War­riors’ Class of 2016 should not to be in­tim­i­dated by the big names in their group when they plunge into bat­tle in the African Cup of Na­tions tour­na­ment which starts in Gabon to­mor­row.

Mushangazhike, who was a mem­ber of the last War­riors team that took part at the AF­CON fi­nals in Egypt 11 years ago, be­lieves Zim­babwe has the tal­ent to com­pete against the big teams in Africa.

The War­riors are the un­der­dogs in Group B, which in­cludes Africa’s top-ranked na­tion Sene­gal, Tu­nisia and Al­ge­ria, who are fourth and fifth, ac­cord­ing to the FIFA rank­ings re­leased yes­ter­day.

On pa­per, the War­riors have so much to grap­ple with as their op­po­nents ap­pear colos­sal with an ar­ray of in­ter­na­tional stars ply­ing their trade in the top leagues across Europe.

Zim­babwe are only set to make a third ap­pear­ance at the AF­CON fi­nals com­pared to their group ri­vals who have graced the tour­na­ment not less than a dozen times each.

Mushangazhike reck­oned it will not be easy for the War­riors in their group but has given them his full sup­port to go far, given they ap­proach the games with the right at­ti­tude.

“I want to wish our boys the best. They must not fear any­thing. There is noth­ing re­ally to be afraid of. I am among those who have been there be­fore and I can tell you it’s the same foot­ball that they have been play­ing all along.

“Prob­a­bly the only dif­fer­ence is the stage and the in­ten­sity of the com­pe­ti­tion. But we have ex­pe­ri­enced play- JO­HAN­NES­BURG . — Zim­babwe War­riors head coach Cal­listo Pa­suwa is op­ti­mistic of mak­ing a mark at the 2017 African Cup of Na­tions fi­nals in Gabon de­spite de­scrib­ing their group as tough.

Pa­suwa took com­fort in their 1-1 draw against the In­domitable Lions in what he de­scribed as a good game that was a morale-booster for the team just ahead of the penul­ti­mate tour­na­ment they have been pre­par­ing for.

“We clearly know we are in a tough group that in­cludes the likes of Al­ge­ria and Sene­gal, but as a coach, I have al­ways told my play­ers foot­ball is de­cided on the pitch, and if they

ers in this team. Look at play­ers like Costa (Nhamoinesu), Khama Bil­liat, Mar­velous Nakamba and Knowl­edge Mu­sona. They can play against any op­po­si­tion in Africa.

“So there is need to be fo­cused. We have to con­cen­trate on our game and be­lieve in our­selves.

“Team work will be key, we have to play for one an­other be­cause we are com­ing up against teams with big names and with records of be­ing reg­u­lars at the tour­na­ment,” said Mushangazhike.

The for­mer Or­lando Pi­rates man was 30 when he graced the 2006 AF­CON fi­nals.

He was among the vet­er­ans that in­cluded Peter Ndlovu, Charles Yo­hane, Lloyd Chitem­bwe, Gift Muzadzi, Edzai Kasin­auyo and Edel­bert Dinha.

Zim­babwe, who had qual­i­fied for can put enough ef­fort just like they did against gi­ants Cameroon in the friendly, then we will sur­prise every­one.

“Our first game against Al­ge­ria on Sun­day is very im­por­tant and I have told the play­ers that in a tour­na­ment, the first game counts a lot.

“I am happy be­cause our op­po­nents will treat us like un­der­dogs tak­ing the pres­sure off us and mak­ing it eas­ier for a good sur­prise from the War­riors. Our aim now is to qual­ify for the quar­ter-fi­nals and we will take it from there,” Pa­suwa said.

The War­riors are fresh from a 1-1 draw against the In­domitable Lions of Cameroon on Tues­day in Yaounde and

their de­but ap­pear­ance at the pre­vi­ous edi­tion in Tu­nisia, again failed to progress from the group stage.

But just like the 2004 edi­tion, they also won the last match, beat­ing a star-stud­ded Ghana 2-1.

How­ever, losses to Sene­gal and Nige­ria had con­demned them to bot­tom of the group.

The War­riors will play Sene­gal again this year in their sec­ond match on Jan­uary 19.

But Mushangazhike be­lieves a good start against Al­ge­ria in their open­ing match this Sun­day could set the tone for a suc­cess­ful tour­na­ment.

“Of course, we are not be­ing given a chance in that group but, with the tal­ent that we have, I have a feel­ing that they will sur­prise every­one in Gabon.

“There is no deny­ing it is a group of death fea­tur­ing some of the con­ti­nent’s top teams but peo­ple must not count will be hop­ing to get an­other break­through on Sun­day in their opener against star-stud­ded Al­ge­ria Desert Foxes with the likes of Riyad Mahrez, his Le­ices­ter team­mate Is­lam Sli­mani and Porto’s Brahimi.

In the game on Tues­day in Yaounde, the War­riors grabbed an early lead through their in-form striker, Tendai Ndoro, who latched onto a Cuth­bert Mala­jila flick from a long goal-kick by Tatenda Muku­ruva, be­fore find­ing the back of the net.

The hosts found an equaliser through a penalty and Ben­jamin Moukandjo con­verted. — Su­pers­port. com

us out be­fore we have kicked the ball.

“We don’t have to be in­tim­i­dated. We have to fo­cus on get­ting re­sults. I be­lieve how we start the tour­na­ment will be im­por­tant to our cam­paign. It will be good to get a point from Al­ge­ria.

“If we can get three, then it will be even be bet­ter.

“We are the un­der­dogs, we have noth­ing to lose but we have to be wary in ap­proach.

“Al­ge­ria are likely to come all out at us, so we have to be good with the counter at­tack,” said Mushangazhike.

Some of the play­ers to watch from this group in­cludes Sene­gal’s in-form Liver­pool striker Sa­dio Mane, Ever­ton mid­fielder Idrissa Gana Gu­eye, Mame Bi­ram Diouf and Moussa Sow while the Al­ge­rian trio of Yacine Brahimi, Is­lam Sli­mani and Riyad Mahrez have ranked among the ma­jor draw cards of the tour­na­ment this year.

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