Tough Algerian challenge excites Darikwa
By Tadious Manyepo
Warriors defender, Tendayi Darikwa, has conceded Zimbabwe face a tough duel against Algeria but insists they have capacity to battle the Foxes in their backyard.
The two teams clash in the first of the rescheduled back-to-back 2021 AFCON qualifiers at the 5 Juillet 1962 Stadium in Algiers tomorrow night.
The return fixture will be at the National Sports Stadium on Monday next week.
But, it is the sheer stature of the Desert Foxes, the reigning African champions who have gone for 20 matches without defeat, which sends shivers into their opponents.
While the ill-prepared Warriors have played just a single low-key friendly match against Malawi, under coach Zdravko Logarusic, the Desert Foxes have been serious about their business.
They beat Nigeria 1-0 before drawing 2-2 with Mexico at the time the Warriors were playing a goalless draw against the Flames of Malawi.
The Desert Foxes have also been able to keep their squad intact while only about six players, who featured in the game against Malawi, will troop into battle tomorrow.
Talisman Khama Billiat was expected to arrive yesterday evening after he underwent Covid-19 tests.
But as the team conducted their final training session at the National Sports Stadium before their scheduled departure later in the evening, Nottingham Forest defender Darikwa reckoned the Warriors were still in with a chance.
“We believe we are able to go there and give the Algerians a competitive game,’’ he said.
“Of course, they are a good team but, look, we also have quality in our ranks.
“The aim is to get all the three points but we know it’s difficult. Yes, we believe in ourselves and all the guys around.
“We all know we can.
“This is international football and everyone knows what is expected of them.
“Algeria are the best team in Africa but we will judge ourselves after we play them.
“There is no better feeling than heading into a match against the best on the continent.
“We need to pick all the points. We will put our heads on the block for the points.
“We are out to get a result and build from there. We are not looking at the return match at home, as yet.
“All our focus at the moment is on Thursday’s (tomorrow) match. It’s will be a massive encounter with everything at stake and we are ready.
“One thing that can carry the day for ourselves going into this match is self-belief. We have to go there, believe that we are a good team capable of matching the Algerians and that way we will come out good.’’
Darikwa is still struggling to get back into the Nottingham Forest first team after his return from long-term injury.
“I am fit as I have been training for a long time now. Of course, I have not been playing first team football but I have been working very hard.
“The injury was a huge setback for me but, look, I am over the line now and I should say I am as fit as I was before that long lay-off.
“I am fit and ready to roar.
“If I wasn’t fit I would have asked to be excused from the national team. But, the reason I am here is because I know I am very fit and ready to help fly my country’s flag high.
“It’s not like I have not been playing entirely but I have quietly been involved in so many games at Nottingham Forest.
“Look, I have been playing mostly in behind-the-scene games.’’
Darikwa said the game presented him with an opportunity to show he can play at a high level again.
“I am ready to explode, in fact, I gonna use this match to confirm that I am, indeed, back to my best,’’ he said.
“But, what is important at the end of the day is going out there and trying to play for each other and winning the game.
“We are not intimidated by the stature of Algeria.
“We know they have high-profile players who can single-handedly win games.
‘’But, we are the Warriors and it’s not easy to pick points from us.
“Part of history, between us, favours us and we have to use that to our own advantage.
‘’But, what is important is definitely to put everything in the game and see what we can extract at the end of the game.”
Algeria lead Group H standings on six points, after two round of fixtures, while Zimbabwe are second on four points.
Botswana are third in the race with one point to their name while Zambia anchor the standings. The Herald