THERE can only be one champion, but stars — and the idea of what qualifies as a successful tournament — will arrive in many forms as the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament explodes Friday night in Cairo, Egypt.
Who’s the star?
No question about that: Mohamed Salah is a national hero in Egypt, his face, according to those in the Warriors camp, is a daily sight everywhere one goes and around Cairo.
However, the Warriors rearguard is confident of not only shutting out Egyptian talisman Salah, but shutting up the thousands of Egyptians who will throng the 75 000-seater Cairo International Stadium for the 2019 Afcon opener.
While the world is not giving Zimbabwe a prayer in this game against Egypt, the actual players themselves believe they will pull a shocker by upsetting the Pharaohs in their own backyard.
In an interview with B-Metro Sport from Cairo, Egypt, towering Warriors centre back Teenage Hadebe said as much as Salah was a great player, he was not superman.
“To be honest, it’s going to be a tough assignment to shut out Salah. However, the job has to be done as we are all human beings who will be participating in this tournament on an equal footing,” said Hadebe.
He added: “No team will be playing to lose. We will go out there and do our best. I believe we have a great squad and we have to try hard to frustrate and silence their 12th man (supporters).”
Imposing Warriors goalminder George Chigova, who will however, sit it out due to suspension, said giving too much attention to Salah would be very detrimental.
“We are not playing against Salah alone. We are playing against a full Egyptian team and as such we must be wary of all the 11 opponents that will be on the field of play. We will need to attack and defend as a team,” said Chigova.
Gritty midfielder Danny “Deco” Phiri, captain of the team when they played Tanzania in a practice match last Sunday, reckoned all was well in camp and they were raring to slay the Pharaohs.
“All is well in camp. All that is left is for us to beat Egypt. All Zimbabweans should believe in us and we promise to do our best in each and every match we play,” said the midfielder who is likely to be partnered by Marvelous Nakamba in giving cover to the Warriors defence.
What would success look like for Zimbabwe?
A kind draw, a lucky win and stopping Salah and crew would mean a lot for this success-starved nation.
What can we expect from coach Sunday Chidzambwa?
Since time immemorial Chidzambwa’s inherent defensive coaching characteristics have not changed: a tough-as-teak defence; an energetic, aggressive midfield; and genuine class in attack, in the form of bustling Mushekwi and lanky Tino Kadewere is all what we can expect in a fourth Warriors Afcon campaign where going beyond group stages or a little further seems possible.
After taking on Egypt, Zimbabwe will face Uganda on 26 June in another Group A encounter that will start at 7pm Zimbabwean time.
The Warriors will then wrap up their group-stage matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo four days later at 9pm.
All 52 matches are on DStv’s SuperSport
λEgypt v Zimbabwe | 21 June 2019 | SuperSport 4 and 10 | Buildup from 21.00hrs | Kick-Off at 22.00hrs
λUganda v Zimbabwe | 26 June 2019 | SuperSport 4 | Buildup from 18.30 |Kick-Off at 19.00hrs
λZimbabwe v DR Congo | 30 June 2019 | SuperSport 7 | Buildup from 20.00hrs | Kick-Off at 21.00hrs
Go Warriors Go!
Warriors Probable X1
E Sibanda, T Darikwa, D Lunga, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, M Munetsi, D Phiri, M Nakamba, K Billiat, K Musona, N Mushekwi