Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS captain, Knowledge Musona, says his troops are ready to turn the tables when they meet old foes Algeria at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Kick-off is 3pm.
Fans will not be allowed into the stadium, in accordance with the CAF guidelines on Covid-19 prevention, although other countries have been allowed to have supporters at their matches.
ZIFA, however, have made arrangements for a live broadcast on ZBC TV.
Zimbabwe will go into the match after a disappointing 1-3 defeat in the first leg in Algiers four days ago.
Apart from poor preparations, the Warriors were largely criticised for contributing to their downfall, after making a series of mistakes that gifted their opponents with the goals.
Musona, who appeared in cheerful spirits after the team’s final training session at the match venue yesterday, believes they have done their home work
“The team is ready, we have been training very hard trying to correct the mistakes that we made in Algeria,’’ he said.
“I think the guys have learnt (from their mistakes) and the only thing we need to do is to try and correct where we went wrong and to try to convert our chances.
“I think it will be a very good game and we are ready.
“As you can see, everyone is smiling and the morale is high. I believe it’s a sign that everyone is ready to fight tomorrow (today) and to give his best.
“So, we can’t wait to play the game and give something to the nation.’’
Many of the Zimbabwean players were confident too.
But, it won’t be a stroll in the park, considering the stature of their opponents.
The Desert Foxes drew first blood in Algiers courtesy of goals from Baghdad Bounedjah, Sofiane Feghouli, and Riyad Mahrez.
“These are qualifiers where teams qualify on points. So, since match day one, it was very important that in every game, we give our best and try to collect maximum points,’’ said Musona.
“It’s been the same from day one and it’s going to be the same tomorrow (today) until the last match.
“We are going to attach the same importance to each game.”
However, another defeat today could see Zimbabwe slipping the group standings, in the event nearest rivals Zambia beat Botswana today.
Chipolopolo moved into third position, following last week’s 2-1 win over the Zebras, which earned them their first set of points.
“Of course, anything can happen in football but we don’t depend on other teams. We play for ourselves,’’ said Musona.
“We want to earn our own points to qualify. We don’t have to look at the other teams and expect favours.
“I think it’s best we do the job for ourselves. The first thing is to focus on the match day that is coming and forget about the other teams.
“We have to do our best to take maximum points and then we will see about the results of the other games.
“But, it’s not finished yet because, after this, we have to play two more games with six points at stake.
“It’s unfortunate that we are playing in an empty stadium. We cannot change anything.
“It’s not anyone’s fault so we just have to try and win.
“I know they (supporters) will be supporting us from home. They will be watching on television so we need to play hard and try to win and make them happy.’’
Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, who has also come under the spotlight, said Zimbabwe were not prepared to walk empty-handed in these back-to-back AFCON qualifiers.
Talbert Shumba is expected to make a rare start in goals for the Warriors, replacing the error-prone Elvis Chipezeze, who twisted his knee in Algeria last week.
Chipezeze, who was blamed for Algeria’s opener, underwent MRI scans on Saturday and the doctors said he may need up to two weeks to recover.
The technical team have roped in FC Platinum’s Petros Mhari for cover.
“We are Warriors, why should we be scared of anything? We created three-four chances in Algeria but we conceded goals that we shouldn’t be conceding in these types of games,’’ said Logarusic.
“Some of the goals were more like gift goals and we have to cut those mistakes. We don’t have to give away goals like that.
“If they are to score (today) they have to work hard for that.
“We are going into this game to win. They (Algeria) haven’t lost in a long time but they will lose tomorrow (today). That’s our main target.
“We have to pick up three points. There is no reason why we shouldn’t aim for that at home.’’
Algeria coach, Djamel Belmadi, said one of his side’s main goal is to break Egypt’s record for the longest unbeaten run in Africa. The Pharaohs went 24 games without a defeat at the start of the century.
“Our players are keen on breaking the record for the team with the longest unbeaten run in African matches, currently held by the Egyptians.
“Small things like this hold a lot of meaning, even if it’s not our biggest ambition. For me, reaching the 2022 World Cup finals is my main goal.
“The players love challenges and they want to go to distance. Winning the 2019 AFCON wasn’t enough,” said Belmadi.