Warriors for top Caf award

HARARE - The Warriors have been rewarded for their stellar recent performances after they were nominated for the 2018 Confederation of African Football (Caf) National Team of the Year gong yesterday.

Zimbabwe will be up against Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritania and Uganda when the awards gala is held in Dakar, Senegal on January 8, next year.

The Warriors landed the nomination after enjoying a relatively successful 2018 in which they successfully defended their Cosafa Cup title in South Africa back in June.

Sunday Chidzambwa’s side also moved a step closer to qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) after earning some results to sit top of Group G with eight points from five matches.

Zimbabwe first travelled to Brazzaville where they held Congo to a 1-1 draw back in September before stunning the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a 1-2 win in Kinshasa back in October.

The return leg against the DRC finished 1-1 at the National Sports Stadium three days later as the Warriors maintained their push for a place in Cameroon.

Zimbabwe’s only defeat thus far in Group G came last month when they lost 1-0 away to Liberia in Monrovia.

The Warriors will seal a place at the Afcon finals in Cameroon if they avoid defeat to Congo in the final Group G game at the National Sports Stadium next March.            
Zimbabwe team manager Wellington Mpandare believes the nomination for such a prestigious Caf award will motivate the players to do well in future assignments.    

“I think it’s the first thing to ever happen to the Warriors. I don’t think the Warriors have ever been nominated for such an award,” Mpandare told the Daily News.

“This will motivate the players to continue working hard because recognition is always great and gives a team a lift.”

Mpandare believes the Warriors’ win over the DRC in Kinshasa was a major factor in the team getting this nomination. 

“Our win over DRC helped us to get this nomination,” he said. “A lot of people never thought that we would win in Kinshasa but we defied the odds.

“The DRC are a good team and they rarely lose at home so it was a big result for us. We also successful defended our Cosafa title and also contributed to our nomination.”

Of the other five teams nominated for the award, Mpandare believes the Warriors’ toughest competition for the gong will come from Madagascar.

The Indian Ocean islanders have had a fairytale 2018 in which they sealed their maiden qualification for the Afcon finals from a tough Group A that also features Senegal, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea.

“I think Madagascar is a big threat for us since they have already qualified for the Afcon finals with a game to spare,” he said.

“It was a big surprise for a lot of people but for me I have seen them closely at the Cosafa finals where we have played against them.

“They have maintained the same side since 2016 and they have given us a very tough time so their success was imminent.”

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