By Petros Kausiyo in CAIRO, EGYPT
AFTER a tumultuous week during which they blew a good chance to beat Uganda and then saw their camp rocked by turbulence, Zimbabwe’s Warriors must now beat DRC at 30 June Stadium here tonight to rescue their faltering Africa Cup of Nations campaign.
Since their Group A campaign started, football has somewhat been pushed into the shade with money issues being the buzzword instead.
Even social media hawks have feasted on the turmoil in the Warriors camp, preying on some unsuspecting players and sowing divisions in Sunday Chidzambwa’s dressing room.
With strikes and threats of boycotts seemingly the order of the day before each assignment, the problems in the Zimbabwe camp have hogged the limelight here and attracted attention around the continent.
The Warriors have found themselves in the same group with such teams as Nigerian Super Eagles, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions and Kenya’s Harambee Stars that had their fall-outs with their federations over incentives and allowances.
Yet with better planning and mutual understanding by the parties involved, the matter which has also sharply divided opinion in a country that has pinned hopes on the class of 2019 to make history, could have been avoided.
But away from the off field problems, which coach Sunday Chidzambwa has insisted he will not be involved with, the task tonight for the Warriors is one way – Win or Bust it.
Chidzambwa said player welfare issues and battles were for team manager (Wellington Mpandare) and the administrators to resolve.
Both the veteran coach and skipper Knowledge Musona admitted that the Warriors had left themselves in a difficult position for which they would have to bring their A-game to 30 June Stadium tonight in order to secure passage to the next round, which is still a huge possibility.
Victory for the Warriors and a big loss by Uganda to hosts Egypt could see them finish as Group A runners-up.
The Warriors could also still proceed as one of best third-placed finishers if they win today and Uganda get a draw or beat Egypt as not many teams from the other five groups are in the frame to finish with four or more points.
“I don’t’ talk about money issues. That is for the manager and the administrators.
“But in terms of this game I must say it’s normally difficult and dangerous to play against a team which has never won and never scored. They are going to come at us and I think we are also in the same predicament.
“I think it is going to be a very difficult match for both teams,’’ Chidzambwa said.
“There was a very big improvement in our last match in the attacking third and I hope that when we play this time we are going to put away the chances that we create and I hope we will create the same chances and maybe even more… we just hope for the best’’.
Chidzambwa said in order to take out the pressure from his charges and avoid hurried decisions he would allow them to “go out and enjoy’’.
“In these types of games we need to take out a bit of pressure from them and we need the players to enjoy the game.
“We will just approach this game as a normal game, the way we did in the qualifiers and in our first two games here. If we go hard on them it will put pressure on them, they must be able to enjoy’’ Chidzambwa said.
Chidzambwa also spoke of the experience in the DRC side as a factor they needed to take into account.
“They have very experienced players and most of them play in the big leagues in Europe but I think our boys are ready for the encounter now and we know what we have to do,’’ Chidzambwa said.
Musona, who will go into battle tonight still looking to open his goal account at this tournament said he was unfazed by his dry spell.
The Warriors captain said he was hoping and praying that he would bounce back to scoring for his country starting tonight but admitted the battles with ZIFA over money issues also had huge distractions on his troops’ focus.
Musona, however maintained that they were now committed to giving their best against the Congolese.
“The thing is that we are ready to play, we came here to play and the game is going on despite the problems that were happening about money and everything.
“The information that we got is that everything is now sorted and the training was good, the intensity was high and everyone is looking forward to the game.
“I sometimes find it very strange that we always have to come to this point before every game because I believe our association knew a long time ago that they had to prepare for this tournament.
“Sometimes as players we don’t understand what is happening because we are always fighting at the last moments and it distracts us because we have to focus on the game and we have to ask for something and for some players it becomes difficult to do the two tasks.
“That is why in some games it takes time for us to quickly settle, because the focus would have been disturbed. We love our country, we just play but with some individuals they would be thinking of two things; either you play and risk injury and you will be thinking about the future.
“I hope that in the next coming games we will not have a repeat of this,’’ Musona said.
The 29-year-old forward said their triumph over DRC in the qualifiers gave them confidence going into tonight’s match.
“We just have to continue from where we left in the last game against Uganda. I think besides the chances that we missed we played a good game and we don’t have to put pressure on ourselves.
“We have played DRC before and beat them but now it is a tournament and it will be a bit different game but we are confident we can beat them again. I was just unlucky to miss the chances that I missed but I took it as a player and it was not my choice but God’s choice.
“I am happy that I missed on the day rather than to fail to get a chance at all. I have told myself that I will keep fighting and on a good day you know that Knowledge doesn’t miss those chances.
“Before every game I tell myself that I want to score and I want to win.
“I can assure the nation that big things are coming,’’ Musona said.
With his attack managing just one goal in two games, Chidzambwa looks set to give a nod to Knox Mutizwa to start as the centre striker in place of the injured Nyasha Mushekwi and ahead of Evans Rusike if the Golden Arrows striker’s form at training is anything to go by.
This is one game in which the veteran coach will be happy to have goals coming from everywhere including a rare one from big goalkeeper George Chigova. The Sunday Mail