The Sunday News
Langton Nyakwenda, Harare Bureau
A journey that began 525 days ago at the National Sports Stadium in Harare with Norman Mapeza steering the ship could conclude in rapture for the Warriors at Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia, Liberia this evening.
National soccer team players George Chigova, Eric Chipeta, Onisimor Bhasera, Teenage Hadebe, Partson Jaure, Thabani Kamusoko, Danny Phiri, Kuda Mahachi, Marvelous Nakamba, Knowledge Musona and Tendai Ndoro started for Zimbabwe in that 3-0 opening win against Liberia on June 11, 2017.
Ariel Sibanda, Jameson Mukombwe, Lincoln Zvasiya, Qadr Amini, Devon Chafa, Ovidy Karuru and Evans Rusike completed the 18-man squad that laid the foundation for the Warriors’ quest to qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals.
With eight points in the bag, three more than second-placed DRC, Zimbabwe will book their place at next year’s finals in Cameroon if they avoid a defeat against the Lone Star tonight. Kick-off for this Group G encounter is 6pm Zimbabwean time and the match is live on SuperSport 9. The last time Zimbabwe played Liberia in Monrovia the match ended 1-1 on September 5, 2010.
The Warriors trained at the match venue yesterday afternoon, a few hours after skipper Knowledge Musona arrived from his base in Belgium and first choice goalie Chigova said his teammates were relaxed ahead of the crucial tie.
“We are not putting pressure on ourselves. Yes, it’s a game that can decide our future as far as Afcon qualification is concerned, but we are just taking it like any other normal game. We are relaxed — no pressure at all. The spirit in camp is high and the boys are ready,” Chigova told our Harare Bureau.
In the event they lose tonight, the Warriors can still wrap it up with a favourable result at home against Congo in March next year. A bumper crowd is expected at the match venue that is named after late Liberian president Samuel Kanyon Doe, who was the West African country’s first indigenous Head of State when he ruled the nation between 1980 and 1990 before his violent, televised death.
According to Liberian newspaper Daily Observer, locals anticipate an upset with the Thomas Kojo-coached Lone Star bagging a second consecutive home victory after defeating Congo on October 6.
Liberia anchor Group G with four points and need an outright victory against the Warriors to stay in contention. So important is the match to the Liberians that President George Weah, incidentally the only African to ever win the World Footballer of the Year Award, is expected to be among the cheering home side supporters.
Liberia’s squad includes skipper William Jebor, who plays for continental giants Wydad Casablanca; Spanish-born ‘keeper Boison Wyney; and Mamelodi Sundowns midfielder Antony Laffor.
Newcastle Under-23 linkman Mohammed Sangare could make his debut, but there is no place Norway-based striker Sam Johnson, who has been ruled out by injury. Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye will take charge of the match.