Mushangazhike believes in squad Pasuwa has faith in his troops
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.