HARARE – The Warriors can inch a step closer towards qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with a victory over Malawi today.
Kick-Off is 3pm at the National Sports Stadium.
However, with Zimbabwe it is never straight forward when it comes to qualifying matches.
The Warriors have a tendency of shooting themselves in the foot when it matters the most.
Zimbabwean football fans have suffered dearly after many Warriors’ near misses but this time around, the team have destiny in their own hands.
If Kalisto Pasuwa’s men get maximum points against Malawi this afternoon, their chances of reaching Gabon will be heavily enhanced.
Zimbabwe currently lead Group L with eight points from four matches.
Swaziland are in second place with five points while Guinea are in third position on the same number of points.
With Swaziland hosting Guinea in Lobamba this afternoon, the Warriors can qualify for the tournament if results go their way in that match.
If the Warriors beat Malawi and Guinea fail to win against Sihlangu then Zimbabwe will be going to Gabon.
Even the dreaded away trip to Conakry in September to face the Syli Nationale will just be a mere formality because the Warriors will have an unassailable lead at the top of the group.
Even if Swaziland finishes level on points with the Warriors, Zimbabwe will still qualify for Gabon since the Confederation of African Football uses head-to-head as their first tie breaker.
Zimbabwe currently have a 5-1 lead over Sihlangu when it comes down to head-to-head.
But all these permutations heavily rely on whether Zimbabwe get three points against Malawi this afternoon.
After arriving in Harare on Friday afternoon, Flames coach Ernest Mtawali made it clear they have not travelled for sight-seeing.
“Look in the first games we played in this campaign, we lost against Zimbabwe at home; 2-1 and we have come here to revenge,” Mtawali told reporters.
“The team has changed a lot. It’s not the same team that lost to Zimbabwe in the first game; it’s a totally different team altogether.
“I think we have improved a lot; we are now mentally strong and we are ready for the game.”
It is very clear the Flames will not be handing out any favours this afternoon.
It will be naïve for the Warriors to think they will get all three points on a silver platter since Malawi are bottom of the group.
The good thing though is that throughout the past week, the Warriors players were speaking the same mantra of not underrating the Flames.
“I think Malawi are a good team, we can’t take that away from them,” Warriors forward Cuthbert Malajila said.
“They will probably cause us a few problems on set-pieces but we also know their weaknesses.
“Their defence is not very good and as you can see our strikers are in top form at the moment.”
Warriors captain Willard Katsande added: “They are a huge threat; mathematically they are still in the running to finish as one of the best runners-up. So they will make it difficult for us and they might want to spoil our party.
“We are very much aware of what is at stake. We need to approach the game in a respectful manner, whereby we listen to the coach’s game plan and execute it on the field.”