Tough draw awaits Warriors

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SIMBA RUSHWAYA

The long wait will be over tomorrow when Zimbabwe goes into the hat alongside 23 other nations expected to take part at the African Cup of Nations finals set for Egypt in June.

Though they have qualified three times before, the Warriors have never gone past the group stage but the technical team has boldly declared that they want to go beyond the group stage.

Warriors head coach Sunday Chidzambga – who is leading the team for the second time at the continental extravaganza – says his aim is to leave a lasting impression this time around. He first guided the Warriors to their maiden qualification in Tunisia (2004) before
Charles Mhlauri and Kallisto Pasuwa repeated the feat in 2006 (Egypt) and Gabon (2017) respectively.

Chidzambga has seen it all.

“We are looking forward to the draw, but we expect a tough one. I’m very confident that we will perform beyond expectations because we have a strong team. The current crop of Warriors is very talented and has nothing to be afraid of.

“The good thing is that this is not our first time to be there. We are now perennial campaigners at the finals and we are not going there to make up numbers. We want to perform well there to send a clear message that we want to qualify for the World Cup in 2022,” Chidzambga said.

According to the seeding done by the continental governing body, the top seeds are hosts Egypt, Ghana, Tunisia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Senegal, while the second seeds group comprise of Morocco, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Mali and Guinea.

The Warriors are seeded third in the breath as Uganda, South Africa, inea-Bissau, Angola and Burundi with Namibia, Mauritania, Benin, Kenya, Tanzania and Madagascar seeded fourth.

Zimbabwe will avoid neighbours South Africa and Angola, but they will certainly be handed a dance against the heavyweights of Africa in the form hosts Egypt, Cameroon or Ivory Coast in the group.

The finals will be held from June 21 to July 19 as per the decision of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee decision in July 2017 to move the tournament from January/February. It will be the first time that the African Cup of Nations will be
expanded from 16 teams to 24 teams in the history of the competition.

The tournament was initially scheduled to be hosted by Cameroon, who last hosted it in 1972, but they were stripped of the right to host the competition due to delays in the delivery of infrastructure and the Boko Haram insurgency in the region.