By Moffat Mungazi
Former Warriors assistant coach, Lloyd “Samaita” Mutasa believes Zimbabwe has what it takes to grind out positive results in their crucial back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against reigning champions, Algeria.
The Warriors are away to the Desert Foxes next Thursday before hosting them the following Monday at the National Sports Stadium in a top-of-the-table double header as they vie for Group H’s top spot.
Algeria lead the log standings with six points from two games, while Zimbabwe sit second on four points.
Botswana are third (one point) and Zambia (zero) to complete the four-team group.
Zimbabwe have drawn one (0-0 vs Botswana) and triumphed in the other (2-1 vs Zambia) of their two opening games, while Algeria have won both (5-0 vs Zambia and 1-0 vs Botswana).
The two rivals last squared off in a competitive clash at the 2017 Afcon finals in Gabon in the group stages. The match ended in a 2-2 stalemate.
Mutasa — who made a name for himself as a midfield magician at the now-defunct Mutare-based outfit, Tanganda, with hypnotic ball artistry that illuminated Sakubva Stadium — is rallying his compatriots to produce performances that can earn them points and aid their quest for qualification.
“I believe we have the quality to match them (Algeria).We can cause them problems even in their backyard and I have faith in this team. Already, we have got off to a promising start with a draw and a win.
“This shows our pedigree. If we can maintain that fine form, then we can make it. Our opponents (Algeria) have high-profile players likeRiyadMahrez, Said Benrahma, Islam Slimaniand others, but big names do not play football. It is actually what transpires on the pitch on match-day which determines games’ results.
“The idea is to play competitively as a compact unit without giving much away. We don’t have to give them too much respect, but fight for points. Coming in quick succession, this fixture will be difficult, but winnable.
“These are likely to be tough matches because of the nature of the competition at this level of the game, but with the right mentality and application, we can get results,” said the ex-Highway, Flame Lilly and Dynamos coach in an interview with Post Sport earlier this week.
Mutasa added that Zimbabwe boasts of players who can provide both silk and steel to the side.
The team will bank on Aston Villa man, Marvellous Nakamba, to anchor the midfield with grit; while forwards Tino Kadewere and Prince Dube are expected to provide the spark upfront.
“The arsenal at our disposal is capable of causing an upset. We have our own competent stars in this group. The experience of the likes of Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat can carry the day for us.
“The former is scoring at his club, while the latter is gradually getting back to his best form again.
“Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu have shown the zeal to command the rear-guard with aplomb and I am happy with the balance this talent gives to the team,” said Samaita.
He, however, highlighted that the Warriors’ systematic preparations for this fixture will be of great significance in their quest for glory.
Said Mutasa: “We need to pour considerable resources and time into preparing for these encounters because logistical issues and player welfare matter a great deal in such assignments. With just four days between these back-to-back clashes, we must be fully geared for battle. Very little time separates the two ties.”
The former Dynamos star and tactician called for a pragmatic approach to the game.
“We just need to get our game plan right with a clear and organised structure. It therefore demands that we be psyched up mentally so that we are physically ready for combat. We do not need to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure. We simply have to enjoy the games.
“During such group games, it is vital to force a draw away from home and get victory in the home tie, while hoping that results elsewhere in the corresponding fixtures go our way.
“We have to continue with a good run and get an edge over other competitors. Such results can keep us within touching distance of the table-toppers in our group. It will be even better with victorious outings because it helps us steer clear of the chasing pack,” explained the 1993 Castle Cup winner with Tan-Tan.
He urged the national team to take it one game at a time, expressing confidence that we can secure qualification. Playing for the Desert Foxes at an empty stadium in their backyard owing to stringent Covid-19 restrictions may work in the Warriors’ favour as it deprives the hosts of the 12th man which comes in the form of backing from a vociferous crowd.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, averted the ignominy of staging their home tie on neutral soil after Caf recently gave the nod to use National Sports Stadium for international matches after the Government-backed makeover on the colossal venue.
This followed a blanket ban on the country’s stadia for failure to meet global standards.
“North Africans are typically notorious for large crowds who support their teams all the way and this may unsettle the visitors. That there will not be any fans inside the ground may be an advantage for us, while hosting the reverse fixture on home turf is enough inspiration for our boys to get it right,” said the former DeMbare playmaker.
Mutasa is a former Warriors and Under-17 assistant gaffer who deputised for the iconic Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa (2017-2019); German expatriate,Claude DietarPagels (2013-2014) and RodwellDhlakama (2007-2009).
He has senior CosafaCup golden honours under Chidzambwa.
Earlier in 2007, he was part of the cast which won the same silverware at Under-17 level with Dhlakama. The Manica Post