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Pasuwa confident ahead of Warriors Senegal game

But Chidzamba warns against complacency

19/01/2017 00:00:00
by Marshall Gore
 
Available for Zimbabwe ... Marvellous Nakamba
 
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WARRIORS Head Coach Calisto Pasuwa is confident that his team will fare well against highly rated Senegal in today’s Group B encounter.

Speaking from the Warriors base in Franceville, Gabon religious Pasuwa said he learnt a lot from the Algerian game and wants to build on the performance, turning weaknesses into strength.

The former Dynamos mentor is keenly aware that a win could propel Zimbabwe into the next stage of the tournament making it a historic moment for the country which has never passed the group stages in their last two campaigns.

Zimbabwe’s Warriors are SADC’s only representative at the tournament and thus carry the hopes of the whole region.

“We have prepared well for Senegal who are a big team. We have done our homework and will pick up from where we left against Algeria,” said Pasuwa.

“The draw against Algeria is our first point ever in the opening match of the African Cup of Nations and it is big plus for us and also huge motivation for the players to do better.

“I have confidence in the players. It (Algeria game) serves as a morale booster to do better and go the extra mile.”

According to reliable sources, there’s a possibility that the Warriors could don their official kit against Senegal. Mafro Sport, the kit supplies, confirmed this week that they faced logistic challenges in bringing the kit to Gabon from Singapore on time.

In addition to the kit boost, the players and the technical team also received lucrative bonus payments after the draw against Algeria.


Zimbabwe coach Kalisto Pasuwa

Zifa Head of Communications Xolisani Gwesela confirmed that each player received $3,000 match bonus after the Algeria game, bringing the total earnings from the AFCON 2017 adventure, so far to $25,000 per player and $38,000 each for Pasuwa and members of the technical team.

However, after acquitting themselves commendably against Algeria, the Warriors face an equally tough challenge against the Taranga Lions of Senegal.

The Senegalese are banking on experience in the continental competition that spans more than four decades (their first appearance was way back in 1965).



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In addition, they also come to Gabon parading a very strong side on paper that has the likes of on-fire Liverpool forward, Sadio Mane. There is also Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City who could prove to be a handful for the Zimbabwe defence.

But it is the Senegalese midfield that could compound the woes of the Warriors if coach Pasuwa does not inject enough arsenal to combat it.

In this department are the likes of Captain Cheikhou Kouyate who turns out for West Ham United, Mohamed Diame who plays for Newcastle United and Idrissa Gana Gueye of Everton.

The Senegalese made an early statement that they are not going to be in Gabon on holiday, posting two victories in friendlies against Libya and the Congo ahead of the tournament.


Senegal threat ... Sadio Mane

They are also the first country to have collected maximum points so far and stand at the apex of the Group B with three points from their 2-0 defeat of Tunisia.

Team manager Aliou Cisse boasts of an equally rich international football CV that dwarfs his opposite number, Callisto Pasuwa’s.

In his own active playing days, Cisse played for the likes of Birmingham City, Portsmouth, PSG and briefly turned out for Arsenal while Pasuwa featured for domestic champions, Dynamos where he ended up coaching and scooping a record four titles in succeeding years.

But then, do we really have to dig that much into history? Tables have been known to be turned, surprises pulled and the unexpected achieved; so it would be early days to predict an outcome basing on what’s written on paper.

Respected former national team gaffer Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa, who was in charge of the Warriors when they made an appearance at AFCON in 2004, believes Zimbabwe have all it takes to advance to the next stage of the tournament if they keep their composure.

However, he is quick to add that there are a few grey areas that need to be looked into and addressed.

“We played exceptionally well against an overrated Algeria and there is no reason we cannot repeat the same feat, or even do better. But we should not be complacent, we must remain focused till the end,” he said.


Sunday Chidzambwa

“Forget the underdog tag. We are as good as any other team that is at that tournament and our qualification is justified, it is not by default.

“We however, have a little homework to do, especially with regards to ball possession.

“Our players need to keep the ball when they have it and avoid the risk of losing it willy nilly and when we have won it, we need to attack and not play it backwards.”

NewZimbabwe.com also caught up with Former Warriors and Dream Team Captain Ephraim Chawanda from his base in Botswana.

Rocky, the only player who never lost a competitive match in Zimbabwe colours said, “This is our second game and we should have, at least picked up the tempo of the tournament.

“Going into the Senegal game, the middle and front of the team should go all out on an offensive.

“At AFCON, goals win you a match, points progress you to the next stage. Our defence should always play for a clean slate; their role is to keep a zero score against us.”

Meanwhile, the return of midfielder Marvellous Nakamba from suspension is a major boost for the Warriors.

Pasuwa opted for Danny Phiri in his absence but this could change as the Dutch based midfielder offers much creativity and power in midfielder.

With Knowledge Musona injured and out of contention for the game, Pasuwa will have to decide whether to replace him with Cuthbert Malajila or to play Nyasha Mushekwi as a lone strike flanked by Kuda Mahachi, Mathew Rusike and supported by Khama Billiat as No 10. This worked well against Algeria.

Whatever happens, Senegal must fall and Zimbabwe must win. The whole nation is somehow eagerly awaiting and expecting for victory in Franceville where Zimbabwe has never lost a football match in their entire history. Go Warriors Go!


 
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