HARARE - Swaziland will be tough opponents and Zimbabwe should not expect an easy ride during this month’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, Warriors captain Willard Katsande has warned.
The Warriors will go toe-to-toe with the Group L leaders first in Mbabane on the weekend of March 23-25 before facing the same side four days later in Harare on March 29.
Sihlangu lead the group with four points after beating Guinea and drawing with Malawi.
The Warriors also have four points after defeating Malawi and drawing with Guinea but Calisto Pasuwa’s men have a lesser goal difference than Swaziland.
As the two ties grow closer, most Zimbabwean football fans believe the Warriors should claim an easy six points, a notion quickly dismissed by Katsande.
“As you can see Swaziland are at the top of the log and their game has improved. We are in second-place and our aim is to win this game so we gain control of the group,” the Kaizer Chiefs midfielder told the Daily News on Sunday from his South Africa base.
“We need to go there and approach this game with a bit of caution. Swaziland are at home and they know if they win this game it will be a turning point in this group as they will go three points clear at the top.”
On the danger posed by Sihlangu, Katsande had this to say.
“I was there in Swaziland for our pre-season with Kaizer Chiefs and I saw that their supporters are very passionate about their football,” he said.
“I have also watched a lot of their national team’s matches and they do not stop supporting the team until the last minute.
“All we need to do is to be careful and let us not underestimate Swaziland they are not a bad team at all.
“If you remember Nigeria travelled to Swaziland recently and they could only come out with a draw. They travelled away to Morocco and beat Guinea on a neutral venue that’s why they are top of our group and we should not take them lightly.”
With the two matches against Swaziland coming within a short space of time, Katsande believes getting a draw away from home and winning the reverse will be good for the Warriors.
“Like I said before, we need to be very cautious especially in this first game away from home,” the Kaizer Chiefs midfield destroyer said.
“A point away from home will not be a bad result for us at this stage, as you know we are going to play against the same guys four days later but at home.
“And if we get a draw in the first game away from home and then a win in the second game at home will mean that we will go top of our Group.
“However, it does not mean we will only be focusing on the home game, the first game away from home is equally important as the second one.”
In the last game against Guinea at home in September, the Warriors put in a humdrum performance to draw with a severely depleted and disjointed Syli Nationale.
Zimbabwe conceded in the second minute after a howler from goalkeeper Washington Arubi before talisman Knowledge Musona equalised in the 34th minute.
“Although we only got a draw in our last game, I think the performance was not bad as we created a lot of chances,” said Katsande.
“You know in such big games you need to utilise the chances you create which we didn’t manage to do. Obviously we would want to correct that in these upcoming matches against Swaziland.”
The two qualifiers against Swaziland come at a time when most of Zimbabwe’s top players are lighting up various European leagues and the South African Absa Premiership.
“I think our performances for our clubs will give us a lot of confidence when we come to play for the national team,” said Katsande.
“We need to carry that form into the national team and I’m sure we will get the results we are looking for.”