Small nations, which small nations…?

JOHANNESBURG - Talk that there is no longer a small team on the African continent is no longer just an adage if last week’s results of 2014 World Cup qualifying matches that took place across this vast continent, are anything to go by.

The so called small teams turned most games on their head scoring some shocking successes that had the football experts’ scratching their heads wondering what was going on.

Despite losing 2-1 in Egypt, the new-look Zimbabwe Warriors also caught the attention of many pundits and it is logical to say, if they maintain the same momentum, the long suffering fans might finally have a national team to be proud of.

I am not saying as a proud Nation we should celebrate defeat. No! The harsh reality though is that few teams and I mean few national teams, across the globe, will come out with a positive result from the land of the Pharaohs.

The record seven-time Africa Cup of Nations winners might be undergoing a rebuilding period but that exercise is almost complete and the fact that the North African giants are sitting pretty at the top of Group G points to a near finished product.

Zimbabwe should also take heart in the fact that they conceded the deciding goal a mere four minutes from time and from the penalty spot for that matter.

While the dream for Brazil 2014 is now out of reach, the result in Alexandra should really form a solid foundation with the ultimate picture now being working towards Afcon 2015 and 2017 and the 2018 World Cup.

The weekend’s biggest winners though were Tanzania who walloped Morocco 3-1. Reports from Dar es Salaam say the Taifa Stars literally put their North African opponents to sword and had they not removed the foot off the pedal in the second half, the scoreline could have been wider.

The result was among some really shocking results of this stage of the African World Cup qualifying rounds.

As if to underscore the growing stature of the game in East Africa, the Harambee Stars of Kenya were two minutes away from scoring a sensational victory in Nigeria before the Super Eagles salvaged some pride three minutes into the referee’s optional time.

For Kenya, whose trip to Nigeria was marred by hostile reception from the reigning African champions, to come so close to snatching all three points, makes interesting reading.

I am a big fan of the two East African nations. They both have a potential of making it big on the African continent and statistics points to a brighter future for the two.

They both have huge populations, their people have huge enthusiasm for the game and their respective governments have played their part in propping up the number one sport in the world.

While some results went according to the script, 2012 African champions, Chipolopolo of Zambia are turning out to be a one-tournament wonder. After their exploits in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon last year, the going has been tough for our northern neighbours.

After being knocked out in the first round of the just ended Afcon tournament in South Africa, Zambia were sensationally held to a 1-1 draw by Lesotho of all the countries.

What is happening to the side which Kalusha Bwalya said would dominate African soccer for some time to come?

Interesting times indeed! Have a good Easter holidays, refresh and spend most the time refreshing and recharging the batteries. This looks a long year. - Tinotenda Panashe

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