Warriors battle Zambia in Cosafa final

Petros Kausiyo in KITWE, Zambia

Zimbabwe and Zambia’s proud Cosafa Cup history makes the two sides the standout teams in the regional competition and the Warriors and Chipolopolo will resume their old rivalry in the competition when they clash at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola today. 

COMEBACK KID . . . .Zimbabwe wingback, Hardlife Zvirekwi (left), seen here shadowing Malawi’s Fischer Kondowe in the quarter-finals, returns to the Warriors’ starting XI today for the Cosafa Cup final against Zambia
COMEBACK KID . . . .Zimbabwe wingback, Hardlife Zvirekwi (left), seen here shadowing Malawi’s Fischer Kondowe in the quarter-finals, returns to the Warriors’ starting XI today for the Cosafa Cup final against Zambia

It is the first time that the Warriors and Chipolopolo are meeting in a Cosafa Cup final on Zambian soil. Their previous meetings have either been on neutral South Africa in 2005 or in Harare in 1998 at the National Sports Stadium, and the 2009 final was at Rufaro.

German coach Klaus Dieter Pagels will become the first foreign gaffer to guide the Warriors to success in the Cosafa Cup should his troops prevail in the battle at the 40 000-seater stadium before an expected full house.

It is Pagels swansong tournament with the Warriors before he heads back to his native Germany to take up a teaching post on August 6.

But the 64-year-old coach, who arrived in Harare to take up the job of Zifa technical advisor on a government-to-government agreement, could end his short stint as Warriors gaffer with a gold medal if his charges come good this afternoon.

Pagels has persistently argued that he does not believe in history and has brushed aside talk that the Warriors are the defending champions.

“They were champions four years ago and not now. I was not there and none of these players were there so it’s a new tournament and I only look to the future,” said Pagels.

“I am 64 years old and I don’t look back to what I did 36 years ago, my daughter has a new baby and I am now looking forward to more years and maybe each 100 and see that baby grow.” He leads a battery of exciting home-based players, including highly-rated Monomotapa forward, Ronald “Rooney” Chitiyo.

There will be two contrasting statistics, however, which both the Warriors and Chipolopolo will be hoping could work in their favour respectively.

The Warriors have been the dominant force in terms of their meetings with Chipoloplo in this tournament but the Zambians, on the other hand, rarely lose at home and are yet to taste defeat at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.

However, the Cosafa Cup provided Zambia with their first home defeat in 15 years when they lost to Angola in the semi-finals of the 1999 tournament.

Today, the Warriors are hoping to become the first team to hand Zambia their first defeat in Ndola, which has become their fortress, since the closure of Independence Stadium for some refurbishment.

Should they beat Zimbabwe this afternoon, the hosts will level the Warriors’ record of four Cosafa titles achieved in 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2009. Below is the two giant’s brief Cosafa Cup history:

Zimbabwe Cosafa Cup Record

Zimbabwe are four-time champions in the Cosafa Senior Challenge and one of the region’s powerhouses.

Their last triumph came in 2009 when they hosted the tournament and beat Zambia 3-1 in the final.

Prior to that they were victorious in 2005 in Mmabatho, again beating Zambia in the final.

In 2003, they easily beat Malawi in the decider, winning both legs for a 4-1 aggregate triumph.

Their success in 2000 in the final against Lesotho brought to an end a long spell of poor luck for the nearly-men of African soccer, who for more than two decades have consistently narrowly failed to qualify for both the World Cup and African Nations Cup finals.

That changed with the Warriors qualifying for the Nations Cup finals in Tunisia in 2004. They also competed at the 2006 finals in Egypt. Zimbabwe previously had success in the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup, winning when they hosted the tournament in 1985.

On the last two occasions that they failed to reach the final in recent years, the Warriors have dropped out of the last two recent Cosafa Senior Challenge tournaments without conceding a goal — losing 5-4 on penalties to Mozambique in 2007 and Zambia in 2008 following goalless draws.

Zambia Cosafa Cup Record 

Zambia won both of the first two editions of the Cosafa Cup in 1997 and 1998 but it took until 2006 for them to claim their third regional title.

This is despite a formidable record, having lost just five times in 39 Cosafa Cup/Senior Challenge appearances, not counting defeat in post-match penalty shootouts.

It was the annual southern African championship that in 1999 forced Zambia to give up their 15-year unbeaten record at Lusaka’s Independence Stadium when Angola surprised them in the semifinal.

The same happened again in 2001, albeit only after a post-match penalty shootout and again in the 2004 final.

Zambia’s first two Cosafa Cup victories were achieved away from home, drawing in Windhoek with Namibia in 1997 to win the mini-league and beating Zimbabwe in Harare a year later.

Their triumph in 2006 was, however, in front of their own fans in Lusaka. In 2007 they lost on penalties to South Africa, while Bafana Bafana knocked them out of the competition in the semi-finals in 2008.

The Zambians would go on to beat Madagascar 2-0 in the third-place play-off.

They were finalists in 2009 in Zimbabwe, but ended up losing the decider 3-1 to their hosts.

The country has also won two titles won in the East and Central African Senior Challenge Cup in 1984 and 1991. The Herald