By Albert Chekayi
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors have qualified for the 33rd edition of the Afcon finals to be hosted by Cameroon in January and February next year. A one nil win over the Zebras of Botswana courtesy of a Perfect Chikwende first half goal in Francistown coupled with a 3 all deadlock between hosts Zambia and Algeria was enough to give the Warriors a ticket to their 5th AFCON finals.
Zimbabwe’s win over Botswana took their points tally to 8 after 5 matches and Zambia’s Chipolopolo were hoping to beat the Desert Foxes of Algeria and hope to upset the Warriors in their own backyard but it was not to be as the match ended 3 all effectively ending Zambia’s dream of an AFCON appearance in Cameroon.
Even if Zambia were to beat Zimbabwe in the last match slated for the National Sports Stadium next week, they will end on 7 points and if Botswana were also to beat Algeria, they will also end on 7 points making Zimbabwe’s 8 points unassailable.
Coach Zdravko Logarusic becomes the first foreign coach to guide Zimbabwe to AFCON qualifications succeeding where famed coaches such as Reinhard Fabisch, Ian Porterfield, Amando Ferreira, Ben Koufie, Rudi Gutendorf among others failed.
Zimbabwe broke the AFCON jinx in 2004 when Sunday Chidzambwa led the Warriors to the Afcon Qualifiers in Tunisia where they lost 2-1 to Egypt, 5-3 to Cameroon before beating Algeria 2-1 through goals by Adam Ndlovu (late) and Joel Lupahla.
In 2006 the Warriors again qualified for the AFCON Finals hosted by Egypt under the tutelage of Charles Mhlauri but lost to Senegal and Nigeria by identical 2 nil scorelines before beating Ghana 2-1 courtesy of goals by Cephas Chimedza and Benjani Mwaruwari. The Warriors had to endure an eleven year period in the wilderness before Callisto Pasuwa qualified for the 2017 showpiece. Pasuwa’s team held Algeria to a 2 all draw but lost to Tunisia and Senegal.
The worst performance by the Warriors at the AFCON Finals was however in 2019 when the Sunday Chidzambwa side lost to Egypt 1 nil before drawing 1 all with Uganda only to give a horror show against DRC losing 4 nil in an forgettable match by goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze. Some of the current crop of Warriors led by Knowledge Musona might make history by playing at three Afcon finals, a feat that no other Zimbabwean player has achieved.
By Albert Chekayi