By Petros Kausiyo
Eccentric Warriors goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini believes Sunday’s 2012 African Cup of Nations showdown with Liberia at the National Sports Stadium will present the hosts with a big test of their pedigree to qualify for the continental football showpiece.
The Warriors – in third place on the Group A log standings – will have to win against the Lone Star if they are to remain in the hunt for a possible place at the Nations Cup finals to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Norman Mapeza’s men with five points, are two behind leaders Cape Verde who travel for a tough assignment against second-placed Mali in Bamako.
Even basement side Liberia with four points from as many games are still in with a chance of claiming the Group A ticket should they overcome the Warriors hurdle and beat Mali in their final game and should the other group results also go their way. Both teams will take to the field on Sunday in buoyant mood after winning their last assignments against Mali and Cape Verde.
The Warriors win over Mali at Rufaro breathed life into a campaign that had seemed to have collapsed following the 1-0 reverse at the hands of the Eagles in Bamako. Now the Warriors know they have to maximise on home advantage to ensure they take the qualification battle to the wire.
Yesterday, Kapini a veteran of many Warriors battles and one of only two survivors with Tinashe Nengomasha from the class of 2004 that qualified for Zimbabwe’s maiden Nations Cup appearance in Tunisia, spoke about Sunday’s big battle against the Lone Star.
Kapini, who plays for South African Premiership side AmaZulu reckoned that the biggest challenge facing the Warriors on Sunday was “how to handle the pressure” that, comes with a penultimate and yet decisive assignment. The former Highlanders and Platinum Stars goalkeeper also made a passionate appeal to the Warriors fans to back the team in the same manner that they did against Mali on June 5.
Kapini has been a pillar of strength, exuding confidence between the posts, ever since he reclaimed the Warriors number one jersey from his good friend Washington Arubi for their second group game against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium in October last year.
“Liberia are a good side and will be tough but I think what we really need to do in this game is to keep our focus. It is a big test of character for us because we know that if we win this match it will take us to another level, we will continue rising on the Fifa rankings and it will also keep us in the running for qualification.
“We need to get the three points on Sunday and then see what happens when we go to Cape Verde, we don’t want to fail at home,” Kapini said. He also backed the current crop of Warriors to post another home win on Sunday.
“I have confidence in the bunch of players that we have, it is a mix of young and experienced players. I think the best that we can do with the young players that have come into the squad is to help them to focus. If we can get the kind of support from Zimbabweans that we got against Mali I think we will go very far. As a team we really appreciate that and we hope it will be the same spirit again on Sunday.
“The coach is working on every aspect of the game and I think if we can convert our chances then we won’t go wrong, the good thing is that in all our matches we have been creating chances,” Kapini said.
Kapini has also been fortunate to have enough cover from a tough defence that is marshalled by skipper Method Mwanjali and has often included Vusa Nyoni, Gilbert Mapemba and Thomas Sweswe, who is however suspended for Sunday’s game. Kaizer Chiefs vice-captain Nengomasha has often formed the first line of the defensive shield and Kapini has attributed their resurgence to the strength and experience of the rearguard.
“Everyone who has played defensively is experienced enough . . . guys like Method, Thomas and Tinashe even the injured guys like Onismor (Bhasera) and Noel (Kaseke). Just on Monday night we were watching Barcelona playing Villarreal and as Warriors we spoke about the need to be patient with our game because the goals may not come as early as everyone would wish but we should not panic.
“I was happy to see our supporters being patient with us against Mali and if you remember the winning goal came towards the end but the supporters stuck with us,” Kapini said.
Skipper Mwanjali and seasoned striker Edward Sadomba also concurred with Kapini and said the Warriors needed to show that they had the character to deal with the wave of expectations from the nation.
“Obviously it is a tough game and we will be under pressure because we are the home team but for us to get a result we have to beat the best. We drew with them in Monrovia so we have to watch out for them and it is up to us as players to handle the pressure . . . the fans want results and we have to find a way of giving them what they want.
“Liberia have very good strikers and their captain Anthony Laffor plays in our league and it is something that we have to watch out for,” Mwanjali said. Sadomba, still searching for his first goal in this campaign, insisted he would not be under any pressure to deliver and felt the Warriors had it within their grasp to collect another three points.
“We have to do our best. The nation is waiting for this game and with the help of God and everyone who is behind us we should win. I am not under any pressure and I know that when the time comes for me to score God will provide, we just have to put maximum effort as a team and we will get the result,” Sadomba said.
Sadomba, whose Sudanese club Al Hilal are on the verge of qualifying for the Champions League semi-finals, looks set to lead the line of attack in the absence of injured talisman Knowledge Musona.