JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe travel to Angola next month with many critics convinced they have one leg on the plane to the 2013 African Nations Cup finals to be staged in Mzansi in January and February next year.
With a 3-1 cushion, it is apparent to see why Zimbabwean soccer fans littered across the globe are excited.
However, the truth is — the road to Mzansi, though very much in our sight, is still littered with more hazards than what we see on paper.
That away goal which Angola snatched in the second half was very crucial.
Zimbabwe might not be out of the woods yet.
But before the Sunday encounter, most Zimbabweans could have taken any victory going to Luanda considering the state of affairs the country’s soccer is in and the damaging effects the Asiagate has had on the game.
So it is a given fact that the 3-1win was more than what anyone had bargained for.
I had my own misgivings, going into that match, considering this was not the strongest Zimbabwean side by a mile.
Most of our stars that have lit the Absa Premiership are still enmeshed in the Asiagate and until they are cleared by the Justice Ahmed Ibrahim-led Commission, will remain in limbo.
Not an ideal situation considering the country needs to see off Angola; we need to win this encounter no matter what it takes.
Truth is Zimbabwe must be part of this Afcon jamboree.
After all, it is only the national soccer team that has managed to unite the country so sharply polarised by diverse political affiliations, that not making it to Mzansi will be a disastrous train smash.
Yet again, much as most of us are seeing the Afcon destination, it is the coaching department which might be the Warriors’ biggest enemy.
With a 3-1 advantage, there is a temptation by Rahman Gumbo to pick a defensive squad to travel to Angola.
The whole intention will be to take to the field with 11 defence-minded players.
We all know the hazards of parking the bus at the goalposts; it is suicidal because even a human shield can be breached especially away from home.
My advice is — Zimbabwe should start like a house on fire and try to score first.
If that doesn’t happen, I see jitters all round if Angola scores first.
What it means is, if they score again, there will be gnashing of teeth from Zimbabweans across the globe.
While tinkering with a winning team is not an ideal suggestion, Gumbo should try to mend fences with Knowledge Musona and ask the Germany-based striker to lead the attack.
What we need, and I insist, is only one goal.
That way we can then afford to close shop and have 10 men behind the ball throughout.
The thing is, with only two appearances at Africa’s biggest sporting showpiece, the Warriors have been a major disappointment for their multitude of supporters.
There is very little separating Zimbabwe’s personnel to that of current champions Chipolopolo.
If anything, man to man we look better.
It is only a question of attitude and self-belief.
Somehow, I believe this is our time.
“To those preparing to come to Mzansi, have your passports ready and start saving a few dollars.
Because there is going to be fun and lots of it down here!
As former Mzansi statesman Nelson Mandela once stated: “Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else can. Sport can create hope… it is an instrument for peace.” – Tinotenda Panashe
*Tinotenda Panashe is our South Africa-based columnist and correspondent. He can be contacted by e-mail at Tinotenda.Panashe@gmail.com