Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS’ fans are confident Zimbabwe will kick-start its 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers with a bang when they take on Botswana at the National Sports Stadium tonight.
The other teams in Group H that Zimbabwe is part of are defending Afcon champions Algeria and Zambia.
The Warriors will meet Zambia next Tuesday and head into today’s match without having played any international friendly.
After the two games, the Warriors will be inactive for a while, with their next match coming against Algeria on August 31, 2020. They will play Algeria in the reverse fixture on September 8.
The Warriors will then travel to Botswana to face the Zebras in the return leg during the weekend of October 9-11 and then wrap up their campaign at home against Zambia.
The fans believe Zimbabwe’s array of international stars, including central midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, who has been in scintillating form for English Premiership side Aston Villa, France-based Marshal Munetsi, defender Teenage Hadebe, who plays in Turkey, as well as a galaxy of South African-based stars, Khama Billiat, Knox M’tizwa, Kuda Mahachi and Terrence Dzukamanja will carry the day for the Warriors.
Carlmarx Nkomo, the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters’ Association (ZNSSA) vice-chairman, is confident the Warriors will win today’s tie.
“Botswana are tricky opponents and one can’t underrate them. However, I’ve got confidence in the Warriors that they will collect maximum points. We have to maximise on home advantage and that is why it’s important that we turn out in our numbers to rally behind the boys at the National Sports Stadium,” said Nkomo.
“On Wednesday we heard Nakamba calling for fans to come in their numbers and we’ve been working round the clock on social media, trying to get supporters to rally behind the boys”.
He said they had organised transport to ferry supporters from Bulawayo to Harare today at a “reasonable” fare of R200 for a return trip to watch the game. They intend to leave for the capital at 10AM from Nissan Clover Leaf Motors, along Robert Mugabe Way.
Another Warriors fan Brighton Tuti said: “The last time we started our campaign with a 3-0 victory against Liberia and the boys should just follow that trend. At home we have to be ruthless and try to fight for at least a draw when playing away. We have a number of good players like Nakamba, Billiat and Knowledge Musona, who hasn’t been playing at club level, that can give us some joy.”
Gugu Mathema predicted a narrow victory.
“What I know is that we are going to win. The players must know that the nation is fully behind them and we don’t care how the victory comes as long as we get maximum points. I don’t see us winning by a big margin because Botswana have developed over the years,” she said.
The ZNSSA Southern Region secretary Trust Jim warned the Warriors against complacency.
“Football the world over has evolved and there are no longer small teams. The gap in terms of playing style between us and Botswana has been closed, meaning that they can’t be treated as underdogs anymore. Our players must knock it into their heads that we are playing tough opposition and therefore we shouldn’t underrate them and get the job done,” Jim said. — @ZililoR.