By Ellina Mhlanga
The Mighty Warriors plunge into the lion’s den tonight in the biggest football match played by a Zimbabwe national team when they take on Germany, with their coach Shadreck Mlauzi conceding that there is a huge gap in class between the two sides.
International bookmakers were by last night refusing to take bets on the Germans winning tonight’s match, which they believe is a mere formality and they were prepared to pay as much as $50 per every dollar bet on the Mighty Warriors staging an upset in what would be the biggest upset in the history of football at the Olympics.
The Mighty Warriors might have written one of football’s greatest romantic stories by qualifying for the Olympics, after beating continental heavyweights Cameroon, but they now come up with the real deal, a German team that is one of the very best in the world.
The Group F match kicks-off at 11pm at the Corinthians Arena in Sao Paulo and will be live on SuperSport 3.
The Mighty Warriors are the first Zimbabwean athletes to plunge into action at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, two days before the official opening of the event set for tomorrow.
Mlauzi yesterday said considering there was a vast difference in quality between the two sides.
“It’s not going to be easy obviously. It’s our first time here. We are taking it as a very good platform to see our state of preparedness as a nation and at the same time to build for the future for these types of tournaments,” said the coach.
“It’s going to be quite a difficult match. It’s our first time and coincidentally we are up against the second-ranked nation in the world so it’s not going to be easy. But we are hoping that we will be able to put up a performance that is going to assist us in the future as a nation to make it in the world of women football.
“We are hoping we will stand our own and be in a position to give the Germans a difficult match. And, at the same time, if they are not careful, we might cause a shocker here.
“It’s quite a tall order, but we are hoping the girls can come through and compete. It’s not about coming here and wanting to win the tournament because there is still a big gap between Africa and the rest of the world at the moment.
“It’s quite an exciting experience that we are going through as a nation and as the Mighty Warriors.”
Mlauzi noted that while they are competing at the Games for the first time, their opponents are an experienced side, who have been exposed to the highest level of competition.
“We know that we will be up against a team that is very physical. They have got very good height, they are very strong in the air,” said Mlauzi.
“Because of their ranking and their experience they are most likely to dominate possession. So we will be more than happy to sit back, absorb the pressure and then, whenever we can, we will catch them on the break because that’s what we have been focusing on. But again it is important that we remain organised defensively.
“Obviously our girls, due to the nature of the stage, will be a bit frightened and we are trying to work on their confidence so that we play our type of football.”
The Germany team have experienced players such as defenders Saskia Bartusiak, Annike Krahn and Babett — midfielders — Simone Laudehr and Melanie Behringer and striker Anja Mittag.
They were all part of the team that won a bronze medal in the 2008 Games, in Beijing.
Alexandra Popp is also one of their best players.
“We’re going to the tournament to win gold. That’s our aim. I think we’ve got the quality to compete for the title,” she told FIFA.com.
“We’ve learned a lot in the last few years, especially last year at the World Cup. We’ve got players here who picked up a lot of experience at the World Cup.
“It may be a different competition now, but we’re in tournament mode and we’re prepared for certain things. We’ve developed in terms of our playing style too and we’re a really good team. Our quality out on the pitch has also gone up a notch since last year. That’s why I’ve got a good feeling that things can work out this year.” The Herald
Goalkeepers: Chido Dzingirai, Lindiwe Magwede.
Defenders: Lynett Mutokuto, Sheila Makoto, Nobuhle Majika, Eunice Chibanda.
Midfielders: Emmaculate Msipa, Talent Mandaza, Rejoice Kapfumvuti, Mavis Chirandu, Daisy Kaitano, Marjory Nyaumwe.
Strikers: Rudo Neshamba, Samkelisiwe Zulu, Erina Jeke, Rutendo Makore, Kudakwashe Basopo, Felistas Muzongondi.
Coach: Shadreck Mlauzi.
Goalkeepers: Almuth Schult, Laura Benkarth
Defenders: Josephine Henning, Saskia Bartusiak, Leonie Maier, Annike Krahn, Tabea Kemme, Babett Peter.
Midfielders/Attackers: Simone Laudehr, Melanie Behringer, Lena Goessling, Alexandra Popp, Dzenifer Marozsán, Anja Mittag, Sara Däbritz, Mandy Islacker, Melanie Leupolz, Isabel Kerschowski.
Coach: Silvia Neid.