ZIMBABWE’S next opponents in the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, Swaziland, are brimming with the confidence ahead of the football showdown in Group L in Mbabane on Good Friday. BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The two teams face off in back-to-back clashes with the Warriors making the trip first to Swaziland before hosting their opponents in Harare three days later in what are likely to be explosive contests.
One of their top club coaches, Thabo “Koki” Vilakati, who is in charge of Mbabane Swallows, was quoted in Swaziland newspapers praising national team coach, Harries “Madze” Bulunga for coming up with a squad he believes has the capacity to overcome the Warriors.
“They are a young squad and have been active in local tournaments. Tournaments like SwaziBank Cup, the MTN Premier League and Ingwenyama Cup play a huge role in keeping the players in good shape,” Vilakati, who recently won the Ingwenyama Cup with Mbabane Swallows, said.
He said most of the players in the Sihlangu squad play their club football in the local league, and this would give them an advantage over the Warriors whose players are drawn mostly from Europe and South Africa.
“The boys understand each other better now because most of them play in the country, which is an added advantage for the head coach. I believe they will produce a good result against the Warriors,” Vilakati said.
The Warriors are expected into camp on March 20 to start preparations for the clashes against Swaziland.
Zimbabwe are in second position in Group L. Although they have the same number of points (four) as Swaziland, Sihlangu have a better goal difference. Malawi and Guinea, also in the group, have one point each from their two games.
Zimbabwe need to win both matches to enhance their chances of qualifying for the tournament in Gabon for the first time since 2006.
Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa has named a strong squad laced with some Europe-based stars, including Czech Republic-based Costa Nhamoinesu.
Everton defender Brendon Galloway and Tendai Darikwa, who turns out for Burnley, had also been named in the squad alongside Colchester United midfielder Macaulley Bonne.
Galloway and Darikwa’s availability remains a major doubt.