Warriors begin Cosafa defence

LUSAKA – The Zimbabwe national football team begin their Cosafa Cup defence Saturday afternoon when they face Malawi in the first quarterfinal match at Nkoloma Stadium in Zambia. 

The Warriors are four-time winners of the Cosafa Cup and are defending champions of the tournament, which is back after a three-year forced sabbatical due to lack of sponsorship.

The tournament kicked off last weekend in Zambia with the first round of matches.

Zimbabwe will begin their title defence at the quarterfinal stage against the Flames of Malawi after a bye in the group stages.

The Warriors arrived in Lusaka on Thursday aboard a chartered flight having been initially billed to travel by road to Lusaka.

Zimbabwe is likely to face a tough hurdle posed by the Flames, who are now under the guidance of former Warriors’ coach Tom Saintfiet.

While the squad comprises mostly inexperienced players, Warriors’ coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels was encouraged by the fighting spirit and dedication shown by the players before ?departing for Zambia.

Pagels and his technical team saw their selection restricted to, at most, two players per club to avoid disruption of the Premiership programme.

“It would be a wonderful thing to (successfully) defend the Cosafa Cup and I think we have what it takes to do that,” Pagels told Daily News this week.

“This tournament is really important for these young local players. It gives them the chance not only to improve but to prove their worth in the national team.

“We will be completely focused on winning the cup. I know all eyes are on us as the record holders as well as defending champions but we are not letting that get into our heads.

“I know some have already kicked us out but we will surprise you. After what happened, of course, it’s important for us to show we are ready and motivated.”

Zimbabwe should however expect stiff competition from hosts Zambia, South Africa and Angola who are among the top seeds.
If the Warriors manage to get past Malawi, they will meet the winner of either Angola and the winner of the Group B preliminary round.

In the event that Angola progress, it would be a renewal of the two sides’ rivalry, with their latest altercation being the Palancas Negras’ denying of Warriors a place at the 2013 Afcon.

Highlanders forward Masimba Mambare will captain the team. Chicken Inn striker Tendai Ndoro, who is the current leading goal-scorer in the Castle Lager Premiership with 11 goals after 16 games, is expected to play an important role.

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