Warriors to know Afcon 2017 fate

HARARE - After a lengthy 10-year absence, the Warriors will go into the hat for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Gabon this evening.

The Warriors will join 15 other nations in the draw, including continental heavyweights like Cameroon, Libya, Egypt, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

Following successive qualifications for the 2004 and 2006 Afcon finals, Zimbabwean football had regressed with the Warriors missing the previous five editions.

However, the Warriors started their qualification campaign for the 2017 tournament with a 2-1 away win over Malawi in their opening match of Group L in June 2015.

Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat were on target for Kalisto Pasuwa’s side on that afternoon at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre while the Flames scored through John Banda.

The Warriors looked like they had thrown away two valuable points when they were held 1-1 by Guinea at Rufaro Stadium in September last year.

The Syli Nationale scored in the second minute through Idrissa Sylla but Zimbabwe rallied back to earn a point after Knowledge Musona’s equaliser.

Zimbabwe were also ponderous in their third Group L match when they were lucky to snatch a 1-1 draw against Swaziland at the Somhlolo National Stadium in Lobamba when the 2017 Afcon qualifiers resumed in March.

Once again, the Warriors conceded an early goal when Sihlangu forward Felix Badenhorst headed the home side a two-minute lead.

The Warriors were back on level terms a minute before the break after Sihlangu defender Njabulo Ndlovu scored an own goal.

Pasuwa and his charges did not have any time to recover as Swaziland travelled to the National Sports Stadium in Harare for the reverse fixture three days later.

It was another laborious opening 45 minutes as Zimbabwe failed to break down the plucky Sihlangu defence as both teams went to the break tied 0-0.

Zimbabwe finally turned on the style in the second period with Musona opening the floodgates from the penalty spot before Costa Nhamoinesu, Evans Rusike and Billiat completed the scoring in a 4-0 rout.

By then, the Warriors were in complete control of Group L and needed to win their next match against Malawi while other results went their way to qualify for Gabon.

That is exactly what happened on June 5 as Zimbabwe ran out 3-0 winners over the Flames courtesy of goals from Musona, Billiat and Malajila.

Guinea’s 1-0 loss to Swaziland in Lobamba on the same afternoon meant that no other team could surpass the Warriors.

After chaotic preparations, the Warriors completed their Group L campaign on September 4 with a 1-0 away loss to Guinea in Conakry.

Today, the Warriors will now know who they will face at the tourney which is scheduled to run between January 14 and February 5.

According to the draw procedure announced by Caf, Zimbabwe will be placed in Pot 4 together with Togo, Uganda and Guinea Bissau.

The top seeded teams in Pot 1 are Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana and Algeria while Pot 2 is made up of Tunisia, Mali, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Pot 3 comprises Cameroon, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt.


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