Moment of truth

THE journey started exactly 650 days ago and will finally come to an end this afternoon at the very same venue where it all began — the National Sports Stadium (NSS).

The Warriors host Congo in a make-or-break 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier this afternoon.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza laid the foundation for the Warriors in the qualifiers with a convincing 3-0 home victory over Liberia in that opening qualifier on  June 11, 2017.

Warriors captain Knowledge Musona scored all the three goals that fine afternoon when Mapeza was in interim charge of the national side before handing over the baton to Sunday Chidzambwa.

A lot has changed since then and now with some of the players who formed a group of that squad that demolished Liberia with swagger and class no longer part of the current team that is set to play the Congolese this afternoon.

But despite all the tinkering of the squad, Chidzambwa and his trusted lieutenants kept the core of the team they found it — top of Group G — and should they avoid a defeat this afternoon they will seal a place at the Afcon finals set for Egypt from June 21 to July 19.

Chidzambwa began his tenure with a  vital 1-1 draw against today’s opponents last September away in Brazzaville at the Stade Alphonse Massemba-Débat, before shocking the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 1-2 in their own backyard at the Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa last October.

The Warriors could have already sealed their place in Egypt but allowed DRC to come from a goal down to force a 1-1 draw at home in the reverse fixture.

Chidzambwa’s charges wasted another chance of booking early tickets to Egypt when they went down 1-0 to Liberia in Monrovia last November. Crucially though for Zimbabwe, they have a golden chance to right the wrong of their previous two encounters in this afternoon’s match.

Should the Warriors sail through today, it will be difficult to ignore the immense contribution of Mapeza, who also took time ahead of the match to wish the team all the best.
“I think at the end of the day, it’s all about our boys. I’m also rallying behind the boys to qualify. That was the objective when we started in 2017 and I’m sure it remains the same today,” Mapeza told the Daily News on Sunday.

“All I can say is all the best to the Warriors. I hope everyone will be happy on Sunday (today) at the end of the match.
“We all want to celebrate together. It will be really nice for the country especially in these difficult moments caused by Cyclone Idai.”

Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa is also back in the fold after missing the last game through suspension and is looking forward to today’s encounter.

“I’m really excited. It’s a big game for the country on Sunday (today) and now I’m here,” Darikwa said ahead of the match.
“We want to win the game as always. We all know that we’ll still qualify with a draw but it’s a home game for us; we want to entertain our fans and hopefully score some goals and win the football match.

“We are promising the fans that we will score some goals and some excitement. We will try our best and work hard and hopefully it will be enough to make us qualify for the tournament.”

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