By Eddie Chikamhi
WARRIORS midfielder Ovidy Karuru has rallied his teammates to make a big impression as the senior national team tries to turn back the hands of time to 20 years ago when they came within 90 minutes of qualifying for the World Cup finals.
Zimbabwe take the first step in their long journey to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil against Guinea at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.
Twenty years ago, as the Warriors battled for a place at the ’94 World Cup finals, they faced Guinea and Egypt, the two teams they will meet this time around, and came within victory in their last match to qualify for the United States.
In the end, the Warriors failed after a 1-3 defeat by Cameroon in Yaounde but the Dream Team made a big impression by topping their group, after beating Egypt here and drawing with them on neutral soil in France and also beating the Indomitable Lions at the giant stadium. Reinhard Fabisch and his men also beat Guinea 1-0 here.
Almost 20 years later, the two teams meet again for a World Cup finals whose year ends with a four. Karuru, the France-based midfielder, is one of the many foreign-based players in the camp who carry the hopes for Zimbabwe in their latest bid to make it to the finals of the global football showcase.
The Warriors have never qualified for the World Cup and are looking for a breakthrough in Group G, which also includes neighbours Mozambique, and former African champions Egypt.
Karuru wants the Warriors to get it right from the start and continue on a good path to erase bad memories of the past crusades when the national team failed to qualify for the World Cup.
He played a small part in the previous campaign when Zimbabwe were fighting for a ticket to South Africa under Brazilian coach Jose Valinhos and vividly remembers the agony that beset the nation when the team lost 4-2 to Namibia in their last game to finish third in their group.
Ironically, Zimbabwe were in the same pool with Guinea who went on to finish top and proceed to the third round qualifiers. The Warriors and Guinea were involved in 0-0 draws in both legs during the group matches.
Karuru believes Guinea should not be taken lightly after watching them play in the Africa Nations Cup finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea early this year. Guinea were in the same group with our neighbours Botswana whom they thrashed a record 6-1 despite failing to make a big impact at the tournament.
Karuru said Zimbabwe were ready for the challenge and promised positive play from the home side. “We are ready to give a fight and get a good result at home. Everyone is in high spirits and there is no doubt we all need to win this game,” said Karuru.
“Personally I don’t know much about the current Guinea team but what I am sure of is that they are a good side with quality players. We saw them when they played at the last Africa Cup of Nations tournament. They are very physical and also play good football. But we should have a plan for them.
“We know they are bigger than us so we should try and keep the ball on the ground. We also need to be a bit faster,” he said. Zimbabwe have been in camp for more than a week and coach Rahman Gumbo is expected to announce his final squad today.
Karuru, who brushed off a minor shoulder injury during the week, said he is fit to be included in the team. Coach Gumbo has rich options for the midfield department. The Warriors look set to go for an offensive game with players like Khama Billiat, Willard Katsande, Archford Gutu, Denver Mukamba and Bradley Pritchard in the picture.
Talismanic striker Knowledge Musona, who limped off the pitch after picking a knock on Thursday, was back in training yesterday. Musona is expected to lead the attack alongside Dynamos’ Takesure Chinyama.
Karuru said the Warriors were boosted by the gesture made by Mbada Diamonds when they unveiled a US$75 000 sponsorship package for the team this week.
“Everyone is happy with what Mbada Diamonds have done for the team. This is a good gesture, which needs to be appreciated. We will try our best not to let them down on Sunday (tomorrow),” said Karuru.
He also called on the supporters to come and root behind the team so that they enjoy the advantage of playing at home. The cheapest ticket has been pegged at US$5, while those for bays 15-18 cost US$20. Those who wish to watch the match from the VIP enclosure will have to part with US$100.
The Zifa office also urged fans to come early to avoid problems at the gates.
“It’s important for the supporters to come in their numbers to back the team because this is a beginning of a long journey. We need to start on a high note and the only way to bag maximum points is through the motivation we get from the home crowd,” said Karuru.
Guinea were expected last night without one of their star players, Bobo Dian Balde`, who was injured during the international friendly against Cameroon in Metz, France.
Balde`, who plays for French side Arles Avigon, was injured last Saturday in the 2-1 defeat by the Indomitable Lions. He remained at his base while the rest of the squad travelled to South Africa, where there were camped in Johannesburg the whole week.
Despite missing some of their key players like Pascal Feindouno, Balde, Kevin Constant, Ibrahima Yattara of Saudi club Al-Shabab and Etoile du Sahel forward Ousmane Barry, Guinea have a competitive squad comprising a host of foreign-based internationals.
The Syli Nationale have a very strong frontline that includes Ibrahima Traore who plays for Stuttgart in Germany and the France-based trio of Ismael Bangoua (Nante), Razzagui Camara (Sochaux) and Idrissa Sylla (Le Mans). From their preparations, it is clear Guinea are looking forward to a positive result in Harare.
The other Group G opponents Egypt and Mozambique kicked off the qualifiers last night in Cairo.
Goalkeepers: Njabulo Nyoni, (Chicken Inn), Marlon Jani (Motor Action) Tapuwa Kapini (Amazulu, SA), Timothy Sibanda (Hwange FC).
Defenders: Tapiwa Khumbuyani (CAPS United), Godfrey Moyo (Motor Action), Patson Jaure (Dynamos), Nyasha Mukumbi (CAPS), Onismor Bhasera (Plymouth Argyle, England), Carrington Nyadombo (Amazulu, SA), Vusa Nyoni, (Gerninal Beerschot, Belgium), Arnold Chaka (Mochudi Centre Chiefs, Botswana), Oscar Machapa (Moroka Swallows, SA), David Sengu (CAPS Utd).
Midfielders: Simon Munawa (Highlanders), Denver Mukamba (Dynamos), Charles Sibanda (FC Platinum), Kuda Mahachi (Chicken Inn), Ronald Chitiyo (Monoz), Welcome Ndiweni (FC Platinum), Rodwell Chinyengetere (Hwange), Bradley Pritchard (Charlton Athletic, England), Tinashe Nengomasha (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Khama Billiat (Ajax Cape Town, SA), Ovidy Karuru (US Boulogne, France), Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Archiford Gutu (Kalmar FF, Sweden), Esrom Nyandoro (Mamelodi Sundowns, SA).
Strikers: Takesure Chinyama (Dynamos), Francisco Zvikumbawire (Hwange), Terrence Mandaza (Platinum Stars, SA), Knowledge Musona (Hoffeinheim, Germany).
Goalkeepers: Abdul Aziz Keita (AS Kaloum), Naby Yattara (Avignon)
Defenders: Thierno Bah (FC Lausane), Sory Bangoura ( Djoliba), Beveren Diallo Ibrahima, Kalabane Oumar, AL Dahfra, Mara Mamoudou (Avignon), Zayatte Kamil (Buyuksehir)
Midfielders: Djoulde Bau (Stuttgart), Habib Balde (Nime Olympique), Lanfia Camara (Woluwe), Ibrahima Conte (La Gantoise), Sadio Diallo (Bastia), Naby Soumah (Sfax).ForwardsAlhassane Bangoura (Vallecano), Ismael Bangoua (Nante), Razzagui Camara (Sochaux), Idrissa Sylla (Le Mans), Ibrahima Traore (Stuttgart).