Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER the Zimbabwe Warriors left it a little too late to sail through to the group stages of the Fifa 2022 World Cup qualifiers, labouring to a 3-1 win over lowly Somalia at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday, Zifa needs to circle four key dates before the group games get underway in March, 2020.
Zimbabwe had a false start to this preliminary round campaign largely due to shambolic preparations, resulting in a shock 0-1 loss to Somalia in the first-leg in Djibouti where the team just met and took to the field for the match, which interim coach Joey Antipas said was more of a boozers’ game preparation. But now that they have scrapped through, there is a need for thorough preparations ahead of the March 2020 resumption of the group stage matches and nothing must be left to chance.
Fifa has always availed dates for international friendly matches well in advance and these dates are critical because all clubs will be mandated, under Fifa statutes, to release players to fulfil those international friendly matches.
Only the months of October and November will have these dates, meaning Zifa must start planning now who the Warriors will play, first on October 7, with the second coming in a week later on October 15.
The second round of international friendly matches’ dates will be in November, starting November 11 followed by November 19. Thereafter the next Fifa approved dates will be in March 2020 when the World Cup group stage qualifiers get underway. It is therefore critical that Felton Kamambo and his Zifa executive committee starts courting prospective opponents now to allow coach Antipas time to prepare the boys and also come up with the best possible combinations.
This idea of knee jerk decisions must be a thing of the past and proper planning is a must by the association.
National teams are different from clubs and it’s these friendly matches that make them gel.
So to Kamambo and company, the four most important dates are October 7, October 15, November 11 and November 19. Let’s slot friendly matches for our Warriors. Ideally it will be advisable to find opponents from different regions of the continent because we don’t know which teams we will be paired against in the group stages.
There will be 10 groups of four countries each, with only the winners progressing to the last and final stretch of the qualifiers.
According to the criteria, the third round will see the 10 group winners from the second round drawn into five home-and-away ties. The winners of each tie will advance to the 2022 Fifa World Cup finals in Qatar.
Caf nations through to World Cup group stage qualifiers
Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria,Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Cameroon, DRC, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali Burkina Faso, South Africa, Guinea, Cape Verde, Uganda, Zambia, Benin, Gabon, Congo, Madagascar, Niger, Libya, Mauritania, Kenya, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Equatorial Guinea,Liberia, Malawi, Djibouti, Mozambique, Angola, Togo, Rwanda, Guinea-Bissau, Sudan, Namibia and Zimbabwe