Battles that may decide the game

Nigel Matongorere has identified some of the key battles that might prove decisive in the outcome of today’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Congo.  

Kadewere vs Mayembo
Tino Kadewere comes into today’s match in fine form for his club Le Havre in the French Ligue 2 where he has scored twice in the last three matches.

In the last qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia, the 23-year-old was not at his best as he missed a number of chances in the Warriors’ defeat 1-0.

Kadewere will be hoping to replicate his club form in national team colours and provide the goals that will carry Zimbabwe to Egypt.
At the other end though, Kadewere’s teammate at Le Havre, Fernand Mayembo will be tasked with stopping the Warriors striker from scoring today.
The centre back has one of the ever-present players in Congo’s line-up throughout this qualifying campaign after having played all the previous four matches.
With an inside knowledge of Kadewere, there is no doubt Mayembo will fancy himself in stopping the Warriors forward from getting onto the score sheet.     

Billiat vs Bissiki
Khama Billiat has proved to be one of the mainstay players for the Warriors in recent years and there is no doubt that the Kaizer Chiefs forward will be one of the players to watch this afternoon.
The Warriors star has had a season of mixed feelings since leaving Mamelodi Sundowns but he remains a livewire nevertheless.
Playing on the wide National Sports Stadium pitch, Billiat will be key in giving the Warriors width on the wings in order to create chances for the strikers.
The 28-year-old also has an eye for goal and will be one of the Warriors’ source for goals this afternoon. 
Billiat has already netted twice during these qualifiers including against Congo in Brazzaville last September.
With Billiat roving between the attacking channels, it will be up to Bissiki to keep an eye on the Warriors star player.
The AC Leopards defender is very experienced and will be central in Valdo’s plans in trying to shut out Billiat and his colleagues.     

Phiri vs Ndinga
Danny Phiri was injured and did not travel to Monrovia for the Warriors’ defeat to Liberia last November.
The Golden Arrows midfield enforcer was solely missed in that game as Zimbabwe lacked the grit he provides in midfield.
As the home side, the Warriors will be inclined to attack in numbers in order to get the early goal and settle the nerves.
In that regard, Phiri will be key in providing cover to the defence especially when the full backs push high up.
His primary role will be to try and stop any Congo counter attacks and ensure the Warriors retain possession at regular intervals.
Touted as the next Jeremy Toulalan during his Auxerre days, Delvin Ndinga did not reach his full potential in Ligue 1 and is now on the books of Turkish club Sivasspor.
Now 31, Ndinga is one of the experienced players in Valdo’s side and will be critical in their midfield plan.
He will go head-to-head against Phiri and it will be interesting to see who will come up tops this afternoon.        

Mudimu vs Bahamboula
Ever since he emerged on the scene in 2018, Alec Mudimu has established himself as one of the most reliable centre backs in the Warriors squad.
The Cefn Druids player is very versatile as he can play at centre back, left back or holding midfield.

Throughout this qualifying campaign, Mudimu has stood head and heads at the heart of the Warriors defence.
Congo still have a chance of qualifying for Egypt 2019 if they beat the Warriors this afternoon and there is no doubt they will try to catch Zimbabwe on the break.

It will be crucial for Mudimu to be the leader of the Warriors backline and stop the Red Devils from scoring this afternoon.
With their top striker Thievy Bifouma missing the trip to Harare through injury, the Red Devils’ scoring burden has fallen on the shoulders of Dylan Bahamboula.

The striker is enjoying a purple patch with his Algerian side SC Constantine, who have reached the quarter-finals of the African Champions League.

He has been overlooked by Valdo for the recent qualifiers but is now back with a point to prove in the Red Devils shirt.

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