Warriors start 2019 Afcon campaign

HARARE - After the debacle in Gabon earlier this year, the Warriors today begin another tough qualification campaign for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) with a clash against Liberia.

Zimbabwe had one of the most porous defences during the last Afcon tournament at the start of this year with Kalisto Pasuwa’s side’s shipping in eight goals in three matches during the group stages.

Despite a promising 2-2 draw against Algeria in the opening group game, the Warriors went on to lose 2-0 to Senegal before the lopsided 4-2 defeat Tunisia in the final game.

After the team returned from Gabon, captain Willard Katsande retired from the national team while Pasuwa’s contract was subsequently not renewed at the end of February.      

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) moved in by appointing Norman Mapeza on an interim basis.

Mapeza decided to go with a largely changed side for today’s game against the Lone Stars with some of the regular faces during Pasuwa’s reign all overlooked.

Forward Knowledge Musona was appointed the new captain last week and will lead the team for the first time this afternoon. The KV Oostende striker is looking forward to a win in his first game as captain which will put the Warriors in the driving seat in Group G that also includes DR Congo and Congo.

“We have to be confident because we are playing at home. We have nothing to lose we just need to go out there and apply the tactics that the coach is teaching us,” Musona said.

“All we want is three points, we don’t care how many goals we score all we care about is the three points because this is the first game of the campaign.”

In recent years, Musona has become the Warriors go to guy for goals but he is not letting the added responsibility of captaining the team stifle his killer instinct inside the box. 

“There is no pressure at all I will just play football the same way I have been doing before and it’s very easy to play when you take it simple,” Musona said.

After a turbulent week in which an injury to star forward Khama Billiat and the accompanying war of words between Zifa and Mamelodi Sundowns, the Warriors skipper wants the team to move on and concentrate on the task at hand.

“We know Khama is a good player, he helped us in the last campaign, he is an important player for us and we will really miss him because he can score and create goals for us,” Musona said.

As for the Lone Stars, they are in Harare targeting an upset according to coach James Salinsa Debbah.

“It’s an important game and we are prepared for it. My expectation is we are here to win, nothing less, we are here to win,” Debbah said.

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