Olympic football draw set for April

Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S Mighty Warriors will get to know the identity of their opponents on April 14 when FIFA conduct the draw for the Olympic Football tournament at the famous Maracana stadium in Brazil. The 2016 Olympic Games are scheduled for August 5 to 21. The iconic stadium will also host the men’s and women’s final competitions on August 19 and 20 respectively. The draw to determine the groups will take place in the stadium’s auditorium.

According to FIFA, the 16 teams in the men’s tournament including hosts Brazil and 2012 champions Mexico, will be drawn into four groups and the 12 women’s teams, including Brazil and 2012 champions USA, will be drawn into three groups.

Just one spot remains in the men’s tournament, with Colombia and USA playing off in March to complete the line-up. In the women’s tournament, the final five teams to qualify will all be known by March 9 as the qualifiers are still ongoing.

The football tournaments will be spread to five other cities apart from Rio de Janeiro — Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Manaus, Salvador and Sao Paulo. And Zimbabwe will be taking part in the women’s competition for the first time after securing their place last year when they beat Cameroon in the last round of the qualifiers.

The victory against Cameroon saw the Mighty Warriors becoming the first football team from this country to qualify for the Olympic Games.

Two African countries will compete in Brazil and the other representative for the continent is South Africa and they will be making their second consecutive appearance at the Games.

However, it’s not going to be an easy task for the Mighty Warriors when they battle it out with some of the world’s best teams such the hosts Brazil and defending champions USA.

Other countries that have qualified so far include Colombia, Germany and France.

The Mighty Warriors are currently in camp in Bulawayo as part of their medium term plans for the Olympics as well as preparations for the Africa Women Cup of Nations qualifiers starting next month.

Captain, Felistas Muzongondi, early this week urged her teammates to take the game against Tanzania seriously when they clash in the first leg of the first round of the Nations Cup qualifiers on the weekend of March 4-6.

“This game against Tanzania is just like any other game we have played before, we have to take it seriously just like when we played Cameroon. We should not underestimate Tanzania because there are no longer small teams in football, so we must treat them the way we treated Cameroon.

“So far I can say we are doing well as a team at our training sessions with the coaches, we are going to the gym doing physical training and everyone is responding well. So I think when we travel to Tanzania we will be looking for a win and that’s possible,” said Muzongondi.

Muzongondi said the African qualifiers will also play a vital role as part of their preparations for the Olympics.

“I think these AFCON games will help us improve more on our fitness level. We are going there to compete and I think we can face the challenge (in Brazil) because when we played Cameroon people had already ruled us out but we surprised them and won. So anything can happen in football,” said Muzongondi.

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