The Sunday Mail
WARRIORS coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa has not been given an Africa Cup of Nations target “because his commitment to the national cause is unquestionable.”
As reactions to Friday’s Afcon draw, which saw the Warriors being pooled together with hosts Egypt, DR Congo and Uganda play out, Zifa acting vice president Philemon Machana disclosed that Chidzambwa has an Afcon free hit.
“How do you set targets for a trendsetter? He is the guy who first took us to Afcon, he is a patriot who worked without a contract for some time and we felt that giving him a contract that says ‘do this or you will be fired was unfair.’
“Yes to a foreigner we could have done that because some of these guys come here for money but this man is one of our own, a legend of the game.
“Mhofu is someone who is self-driven, he wants to do well, he wants to better his own record and long before we qualified he spoke of going beyond the group stages and we promised to support him in every way we can,” said Machana.
With the draw out of the way; Zifa are expected to meet this week to finalise their Afcon 2019 roadmap, amid indications that the delegation that was in Egypt for the draw managed to secure friendly matches with some of the continent’s big boys. “There is no time to rest,” added Machana.
“Work is now going towards ensuring a smooth Afcon appearance and we should soon be announcing our fundraising committee and the friendlies we will play in the build-up to Afcon 2019.
“Soon after we qualified we met the Minister (Kirsty Coventry), we gave her the budget and she said Government will also play some part in helping us.
“It’s very encouraging to know that even President ED (Mnangagwa) is fully behind us. He gave us his best wishes before the final qualifier against Congo Brazzaville and we are certain that he will be with us as we prepare for Egypt.”
Chidzambwa and his men will most likely get a chance to fine tune their act with sparring ties against Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa.
A tie against a North African team that plays the “Egyptian way”, is also being pursued as Chidzambwa seeks to become the first coach to negotiate Zimbabwe past the Afcon group stages.
And, with the two teams from each of the six groups as well as four best placed runners up qualifying for the Round of 16, the Warriors have a seemingly manageable task before them.
They face the team’s top dogs Egypt in the opening game before facing a DR Congo side they collected four points from in the qualifiers and a Uganda side that is only making its second Afcon dance.
DR Congo are talking of going all the way to the final while Egypt have been tasked with winning the Afcon title for a record extending eight times.
“Definitely there is pressure on us because we are the record winners but I am positive,” Egypt’s assistant coach Hany Ramzy told beIN Sports after Friday’s draw.
“We are always favourites to win the African cup but nothing in football is easy now. All teams have good players and we respect all of them. Our target is to win the title. We will take things one step at a time.”
Meanwhile, Uganda coach Sebastien Desabre described Group A as a tough call. “Our chances in advancing will be tough because of the similar level of the teams in our group. It will be a difficult match-up facing the Pharaohs on their home turf,” Desabre was quoted as saying by the Ugandan Independent yesterday.