Tadious Manyepo in ALGIERS, Algeria
A LOT has changed since the Warriors came within just eight minutes of beating the Desert Foxes, before settling for a 2-2 draw at the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon.
While Algeria struggled to make an impact, at those finals, they have transformed themselves into African champions, following their triumph in Egypt last year.
They have gone 20 matches, without defeat, since their 0-1 loss to Benin on October 16, 2018.
But, more things have changed, it seems, the more they have remained the same.
Then, just like now, the Desert Foxes still look up to Manchester City midfielder Riyad Mahrez for inspiration.
Mahrez scored both goals for the Algerians in that stalemate.
Striker Nyasha Mushekwi, who scored from the spot in that match, is not here in Algiers but Kuda Mahachi, the scorer of the second goal, is raring to go.
Warriors’ poster boy, Khama Billiat who created both goals and twice came close to scoring spectacular one for himself, with his volley crashing against the post, is still around.
Yesterday, the 30-year-old was talking tough ahead of the match against the Desert Foxes, which starts at 9pm.
The showdown is at the July 5 1962 Stadium.
“It’s about what matters in African football, the Africa Cup of Nations and we can’t relax,” Billiat told The Herald. “We just got to give it our all and make sure that we get a result.
“We know what happened the last time we played them in 2017 in Gabon. The match was lit and it was explosive.
“We still expect the same intensity, in this match, but a lot has changed.
“Algeria have since risen to become the champions of the continent.
“Not only that but they have stretched for 20 games without conceding defeat.
“That tells a story about their pedigree and consistency.
“But, we are banking on several factors, history being one of it. We also have good players who can destroy any opponent any day.”
Billiat said the Warriors should be patient, with their opponents tonight, and try to contain them in the initial stages.
“The best way we gonna do it is by trying to avoid conceding goals in the early stages,’’ he said.
“That should be our first priority.“When you avoid conceding, always have a chance to score.
“Algeria are a very dangerous side and we need to frustrate them by tightening our marking. Once they start rushing their things we will be left with brighter chances of scoring.” The Kaizer Chiefs star lamented poor preparations by the team but challenged his teammates to turn on their best show. “It’s there and it’s always there. There are reasons for that (the poor preparations) but we cannot sit back and be always ready to play the blame game.
“We are responsible for the result, bad or good, this is international football.”
Zimbabwe will host the same opponents on Monday at the National Sports Stadium.
Algeria lead the standings on six points, after two round of fixtures, while Zimbabwe are second on four points.
Botswana and Zambia face each other at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka at 6pm today before they meet in Gaborone next week.