Afcon draw: No need to panic!

HARARE - Make no mistake; the Warriors were handed a tough 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) draw but Kalisto Pasuwa’s men have no reason to lose heart.

Zimbabwe was pooled in Group B which also includes Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia during Wednesday night’s draw held in Libreville, Gabon.

On paper, this draw is as onerous as it can get for the Warriors if you look at the recent form and profile of the other three teams.

Algeria are the third-best ranked side on the continent and during the 2017 Afcon qualifiers, they showed the continent why they are a powerhouse.

Led by the slippery dribbling skills of Leicester City winger Riyad Mahrez, who was voted the best player in England last season, the Desert Foxes blew away their opposition in Group J on their way to sealing a ticket to Gabon 2017.

Algeria were the top goal scorers in the qualifiers — netting an eye-catching 25 goals in six matches.

The North Africans finished their campaign undefeated with five wins and a single draw but it is the manner in which they destroyed teams which rightly make them one of the tournament’s favourites.

One only needs to look at some of the lop-sided score lines like the 7-1 win over Ethiopia and the 6-0 victory against Lesotho to see that the Desert Foxes were scoring for fun in the qualifiers.

Senegal, who are the second-best ranked side on the continent, were also irresistible in the qualifiers as they finished with a perfect record in Group K after winning all their six qualifying matches.

The Lions of Teranga have one of the best squads on the continent with the likes of Sadio Mane, Mame Biram Diouf, Idrissa Gueye and Diafra Sakho all part of Aliou Cisse’s squad.

Although they scored 11 goals in those six matches, Senegal were unyielding at the back, conceding just two.

Tunisia have been slowly rebuilding under experienced Polish coach Henryk Kasperczak, who led them to the top of Group A in the qualifiers with 13 points.

The Carthage Eagles will obviously be relying on the likes of Yassine Chikhaoui, Wahbi Khazri and Youssef Msakni to lead them to the later rounds of the competition.

Despite their glowing CVs and large pool of talent, these three teams can be defeated with the right approach.

The Warriors can draw inspiration from Mahrez’s club Leicester City, who defied odds to lift the English Premier League title last season.

Leicester were 5000-1 odds to win the 2015-16 title at the start of the season but with some determination and unity of purpose, Claudio Ranieri’s side left many clubs with budgets 10 times their size biting the dust.

This current generation of Warriors showed the rest of the continent they are no pushovers by qualifying for the Gabon 2017 with a game to spare in Group L.

With a fearsome forward line up of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Nyasha Mushekwi, Evans Rusike, Tendai Ndoro, Matthew Rusike and Cuthebrt Malajila, Pasuwa has enough arsenal in his amour to fire the Warriors to at least the quarter-final stage.

In midfield, captain Willard Katsande, Danny Phiri and Marvellous Nakamba can go toe-to-toe against any of the midfielders of the three teams in Group B.

It is at the back where Pasuwa needs to find the right balance and come up with a combination which can shut out the Warriors’ opponents.

Pasuwa is yet to find a regular partner for Costa Nhamoinesu at the heart of the defence as he alternated between Elisha Muroiwa, and Lawrence Mhlanga during the qualifiers.

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