Geared for bat­tle:

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Ed­die Chikamhi Se­nior Sports Re­porter

VET­ERAN coach Sun­day Chidzamba has backed his War­riors to stand their ground when they face the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo in a tough top-of-the-ta­ble clash at the 80 000-seater Stade des Mar­tyrs in Kin­shasa tonight. Kick-off is 7:30pm Zim­bab­wean time. The War­riors, who ar­rived in the vast cen­tral African coun­try on Tues­day, are on the hunt for points that could guar­an­tee them con­trol of Group G af­ter the pool was blown open fol­low­ing the win by third-placed Congo-Braz­zav­ille over bot­tom-placed Liberia on Thurs­day.

With the top three teams now tied on four points ahead of tonight’s clash, the War­riors, who lead on su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence, will be able to re­tain their place at the top if they can only avoid de­feat against the star-stud­ded Leop­ards.

Speak­ing from Kin­shasa be­fore their fi­nal train­ing ses­sion yes­ter­day, Chidzambwa said they are play­ing “one of the best teams in Africa”, but said his charges were ready for the chal­lenge.

The War­riors gaffer said he was happy with their prepa­ra­tions.

“I think we are now ready for the bat­tle. The guys are re­ally look­ing good. They are putting so much ef­fort in train­ing and we hope they will carry that into the match.

“As for me, I wouldn’t want to con­cern my­self with the re­sults from the other match. All I am wor­ried about is the game we are play­ing to­mor­row (tonight).

“I just hope and pray that we pro­duce a good re­sult in this game. If we get a pos­i­tive re­sult, then we put our­selves in a good po­si­tion,” said Chidzambwa.

The War­riors are look­ing to build on their promis­ing start fol­low­ing the 3-0 thrash­ing of Liberia at home in their open­ing game of the cam­paign, thanks to a hat-trick by skip­per Knowl­edge Mu­sona.

This was fol­lowed by a brave 1-1 draw away to Congo-Braz­zav­ille, with Kaizer Chiefs tal­is­man Khama Bil­liat on tar­get.

Chidzambwa yes­ter­day said his charges have been ac­cli­ma­tis­ing well to the hu­mid con­di­tions in the Cen­tral African na­tion.

Apart from Danny Phiri, who had a slight mus­cle pull, the War­riors have a clean bill of health. Chidzambwa also reck­oned that his play­ers would have no prob­lems play­ing on the ar­ti­fi­cial sur­face at the Stade des Mar­tyrs.

Zim­babwe also played on ar­ti­fi­cial turf in their last match in Braz­zav­ille and got a point, while the ma­jor­ity of the play­ers in the side used to play on Ru­faro’s ar­ti­fi­cial turf on the home front for sev­eral years.

“I think most of these guys have played at Ru­faro and we also played our last match on ar­ti­fi­cial turf in Braz­zav­ille.

“Surely, they must be get­ting used to the turf and we also need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion that our op­po­nents are also com­ing from Europe.

“They don’t usu­ally play on ar­ti­fi­cial turf and I think it will be 50-50. As you know they, have so many for­eign-based play­ers who play in Europe. So they must be a very good side.

“But we also have a cou­ple of play­ers who play in Europe and South Africa. I think we will give them a good run for their money.

“We are go­ing to play hard for our fans back home. I urge the sup­port­ers to pray for us and rally be­hind the team and they should also come back in their thou­sands on Tues­day and rally be­hind the team again as we try and put our­selves in a bet­ter po­si­tion,” said Chidzambwa.

Skip­per Mu­sona and mid­fielder Bil­liat are ex­pected to play a star­ring role again this evening while new­boy Ten­dayi Darikwa is set to make his de­but in the War­riors colours at right back af­ter he re­cently got the doc­u­men­ta­tion that en­ables him to play for Zim­babwe.

Darikwa, who was born in Eng­land 26 years ago, is ex­cited by the prospects and is a wel­come ad­di­tion to the War­riors de­fence which misses vice cap­tain Costa Nhamoinesu through a shoul­der in­jury.

Zim­babwe and DRC will clash again next Tues­day at the Na­tional

Sports Sta­dium in Harare in the re­turn leg of this back-to-back duel.

The Leop­ards of DRC have made it clear they want to cap­i­talise on home ad­van­tage to lay a strong foun­da­tion for their cam­paign for the 2019 AFCON fi­nals to be held in Cameroon.

Their coach Florent Ibenge has called the ma­jor­ity of the for­eign-based pro­fes­sion­als who were rested for their last en­counter away to Liberia which ended in a 1-1 stale­mate.

Ibenge told re­porters in a pre-match Press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day that a lot is at stake as the DRC are aim­ing to col­lect all six points from the back-to-back clashes.

He said they would need to atone for their fail­ure to qual­ify for the re­cent FIFA World Cup.

“To start this dou­ble-header at home is a pos­i­tive pres­sure be­cause we want to go to Cameroon. We must be dili­gent at home, take points and go out to win.

“We think that ev­ery day, we must be in a po­si­tion to qual­ify. So if we lose this Satur­day, it will be com­pli­cated.

“We ab­so­lutely have to win to be in a qual­i­fy­ing po­si­tion. There was a dou­ble con­fronta­tion against Tu­nisia that was lost and an­other against An­gola that had a happy end­ing.

“I pre­fer to fo­cus on the one against An­gola. We have to do ev­ery­thing be­cause the Zim­babwe team is easy to beat, “said Ibenge.

Among the play­ers who missed the trip to Liberia but have been called for the Zim­babwe game is China-based striker Cedric Bakambu, Gael Kakuta of Rayo Val­le­cano, Benik Afobe of Stoke City and West Ham’s Arthur Ma­suaku.

Ibenge is spoilt for choice as his squad is made up of play­ers who play in the top leagues of Europe.

With Chidzambwa urg­ing the na­tion to rally be­hind his team next week, War­riors’ cheer­leader Chris “Ro­mario” Musekiwa also said yes­ter­day that Zim­babwe should be fo­cused on avoid­ing de­feat and preached the gospel of united sup­port. Musekiwa said what­ever the re­sult from DRC, the War­riors fans should brace for a big match in the re­turn leg where they hope to boost the team by fill­ing the gi­ant Na­tional Sports Sta­dium.

“Let us come in our big num­bers on Tues­day night and fill up the Na­tional Sports Sta­dium to ca­pac­ity.

“Come on guys, if Ethiopia can fill up their own 60 000-seater sta­dium on a Tues­day af­ter­noon, why can’t we also do it? I think we can do bet­ter in terms of at­ten­dance and show our sup­port.

“Let us come in our droves and give the boys a mo­ti­va­tional cheer as the 12th player. It’s also go­ing to be a home­com­ing show for our Not­ting­ham For­est de­fender Ten­dayi Darikwa and CEFN Druids de­fender Alec Mudimu, so we have to give them a rous­ing wel­come in this su­per clash.

“This is our big­gest home match of the qual­i­fiers and we have to re­spond pos­i­tively. Let’s cre­ate a car­ni­val and in­tim­i­dat­ing at­mos­phere to con­fuse the Rhumba boys. Bring any­thing, let’s give the team a mem­o­rable 90 min­utes of un­wa­ver­ing sup­port.

“We should aim to qual­ify with an­other match to spare like what we did last time. We are con­vinced of a re­sound­ing vic­tory on Tues­day night,” said Musekiwa

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