Warriors commence make-or-break week

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AFTER close to a year without any international football, the Warriors return on the continental stage with crucial backto-back 2022 Afcon Group H qualifiers against Algeria this week.
Zimbabwe is scheduled to travel to Algiers to take on the Desert Foxes at the July 5 Stadium on Thursday night in the first game. Four days later, the two teams go head-tohead again at the National Sports Stadium in Harare with a lot at stake in the group.

The last time the Warriors were in action was when they beat Zambia 1-2 at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka on November 19 last year.

That victory kick started Zimbabwe’s Group H campaign after a disappointing home goalless draw against Botswana at the National Sports Stadium four days earlier.

With Algeria thrashing Zambia 5-0 and edging Botswana 0-1 in their opening two games, the North Africans’ shot to the top of the group.

The Warriors are currently in second place  with four points which makes these upcoming encounters against the Desert Foxes crucial.

Initially, these two matches should have taken place back in March but were postponed due to the global outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19).

However, on Thursday, the Warriors will come up against one of the best teams on the continent which will be hoping for all three points and secure their ticket for the finals to be held in Cameroon in the next 14 months.
The reigning African champions have a star-studded line-up which features the likes of Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez, West Ham’s Said Benrahma, AC Milan’s Ismael Bennacer and Sofiane Feghouli of Galatasaray.

Warriors coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic has already admitted that it will not be easy for his side in the two games.
“First of all, we need to know one thing; Algeria is the best team in Africa. Algeria has one of the best squads on the continent, and they have one of the best coaches. And we have to respect and congratulate them on that.

“I’m not talking about the players, because the Algerian team is not made up of just one or two players. “The Desert Foxes are, above all, a team and we have to play against a team. It is very hard
and very difficult to play against such a wellorganised team. I’m not talking about the big names in the Algerian team, but as a team, the Algerian national team is very strong,” the Croat said last week.

Despite taking on the aristocrats of African football, Loga wants his side to take the game to the Desert Foxes in both matches without throwing caution to the wind.

“We always have to be optimistic; all coaches have to be optimistic, but it’s a real challenge, but we are going to give the best of ourselves.

“However, we remain realistic, we have to admit that Algeria is the best team in Africa at the moment and it is not easy to say that we are going to beat the best team in Africa or that we are going to do anything, but the objective is to give the best of ourselves and see how far we will go knowing that we will face the best team in Africa,” Loga said.

Meanwhile, both matches will be played behind closed doors as Caf is still wary of the dangers posed by Covid-19.
Last week, Caf held a video conference workshop with all the national safety and security officers (Nsso) of member associations to inform them and train them on the new safety and security protocols imposed due to the pandemic.

“Our goal is to ensure that there is uniformity in safety and security operations across Africa with an emphasis on making sure that the matches are played under a safe and secured environment.

“We are mindful of the enormous task ahead, especially how to keep spectators and supporters away from the stadium. “Hence, we felt the need to guide all Nssos and appointed Caf safety and security officers on best practices under these conditions.

“The protection of the players and officials before, during, and after the match is of great importance in our operations. “We need to ensure effective coordination between safety and security officers and all
other health officers who will be involved in delivering each match,” Caf head of safety and security Christian Emeruwa said in a statement.

Warriors squad:
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze (Baroka), Tatenda Mkuruva (Michigan Stars), Talbert Shumba (Nkana)
Defenders: Tendai Jirira (Detroit City), Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor), Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Jordan Zemura (Bournemouth), Alec Mudimu (Sheriff Tiraspol), Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana), Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Adam Chicksen (Notts County)
Midfielders: Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Marshall Munetsi (Stade Reims), Knowledge Musona (KAS Eupen), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Kuda Mahachi (SuperSport), Tafadzwa Rusike (Zesco United), Butholezwe Ncube (Amazulu), Ovidy Karuru (Unattached), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Orlando Pirates), King Nadolo (Dynamos)
Forward: Tino Kadewere (Lyon), David Moyo (Hamilton), Prince Dube (Azam FC)

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