By Tadious Manyepo
Having already been eliminated from the ongoing Chan football finals, the Warriors will be out to restore a little bit of their dignity when they face Mali in their last Group A encounter tomorrow.
Zimbabwe suffered straight defeats at the hands of hosts Cameroon a week ago and Burkina Faso on Wednesday to effectively crash out of the biannual tournament.
Mali and Cameroon are tied on four points with Burkina Faso on three and the Warriors will play spoilers if they win while Burkina Faso get a favourable result against the hosts.
And Warriors skipper Ian Nekati says the squad won’t be out for any favours but squeeze out a result and return home with some pride.
“Firstly, we are very disappointed as a team for letting the nation down,” said Nekati.
“We wanted to do better than what we did. We didn’t do enough which is very disappointing from a player’s point of view.
“We know we carried the hopes of the entire nation and to be eliminated so early in a tournament we have previously done better leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
“But, such is the nature of the game, if you can’t play well then you lose.
“Our Chan business isn’t finished as yet though.
“We still have a game against Mali and that one should be our chance to get back our pride as a team, as a country.”
Nekati said although Mali are firmly in contention to advance to the quarter-finals, they shouldn’t expect any favours from the Warriors.
“We aren’t here to aid any team’s cause in this tournament. We wanted to progress beyond the group stage but, unfortunately, we didn’t do enough.
“We face Mali fully knowing that they are a good team. They top the table and they will try to pin us down but I believe we have gained enough experience in the past two games where we made some soft errors to allow our opponents to devour us.
“We know we are out of Chan and that gives us extra motivation to try and return home with pride.
“We are going all out for a win against Mali and we know it’s possible. Mali is a good team judging from the way they played in their first two games against Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
“We know Mali are good, very good as they haven’t lost any of their two matches they have played so far at this tournament.
“They have shown that they mean business, real business. They have quality in their ranks. But we are not dwelling much into that.
“We haven’t played Mali yet, we are ready for them. Of course, we are out of the championship which is unfortunate but we will play for our badge.
“We have disappointed the whole country and we believe this is the only chance to put smiles back on people’s faces.
“We will play our hearts out. Every player is ready. We will give more than 100 per cent into this encounter. We cannot afford to lose all the three matches. If we made mistakes in the first two games, we have learnt the hard way and can’t repeat those mistakes.
“There is pride at stake and we will fight tooth and nail to redeem that pride.”
Nekati said had the team had thorough preparations ahead of this tournament, they would have performed better.
There hasn’t been any organised competition in Zimbabwe for over 13 months and coach Zdravko Logarusic had tried to have the players in camp for two months but the Covid-19 pandemic further curtailed those plans.
“We know every team was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic but our situation was mostly compounded by the fact that we haven’t played football for over a year. We also lost two weeks of preparation in the run-up to the tournament after we had several Covid-19 cases in our camp.
“We are not trying to justify our poor performance but that definitely affected us. At the moment we are focusing on beating Mali and restore some pride,” Loga said.
Logarusic is likely to make further changes in his squad with goalkeeper Nelson Chadya most likely to come in for Simba Chinani who made several mistakes which largely contributed to Zimbabwe’s loss against Burkina Faso. The Chronicle