Rumble in the jungle

RUMBLE IN JUNGLEEddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
WARRIORS’ skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi has challenged his teammates to put the nation first and resist the urge to play for selfish ambitions as they search for glory at the fourth edition of the Africa Nations Championship that get underway in Rwanda tomorrow.

Zvirekwi, the only survivor from the previous campaign when Zimbabwe recorded their best CHAN performance by finishing fourth in 2014, yesterday said they should aim to better that feat.

Zimbabwe have been to every edition of the tournament since its inception in 2009, but the chance for silverware has evaded them on all occasions.

Inaugural winners, the Democratic Republic of Congo are the only other country that have played at all CHAN instalments.

Zvirekwi yesterday said he has been encouraged by the spirit in the camp.

His experience will be key as he takes over the armband from Soccer Star of the Year Danny “Deco” Phiri who misses the tournament because of injury.

“The spirit has been amazing. The guys are raring to go, we can’t wait to step onto the field for the first game. I think this has been great to see these guys highly motivated. In fact, these guys have been motivated from day one, they came to camp prepared to fight for their places and to work hard. I believe we have the best team for the tournament.

“So, to my teammates I say let’s go out there and fight for our pride as a nation. We have to make the nation proud. We have to play for the nation first and then for ourselves.

“Of course, I believe this is a good platform for us to further our careers, but the nation comes first. We are going to do our best and probably make the whole of Zimbabwe proud,” said Zvirekwi.

The Warriors are expected to leave for Rwanda early tomorrow morning and they will play their first group match on Tuesday against Zambia.

They are in Group D which also includes Uganda, their opponents in their second match next Saturday and West Africans Mali.

Zimbabwe, however, cannot say they had the same preparations as their opponents, but the players are brimming with confidence as they look to build on the positive momentum in their camp.

The Warriors have received support from the ZIFA leadership but there were some glaring handicaps, which included the lack of international friendly matches to fine-tune the team, and the unavailability of a proper artificial surface to train on.

Zimbabwe will play their opening two matches on synthetic turf and they needed a feel of playing on such a surface.

Their opponents Uganda have since played two international practice matches which they drew 1-1 against Gabon and 0-0 with Cameroon.

Zambia have been camping in South Africa where they also played an international preparatory match and beat Angola 2-1.

However, Warriors vice-captain Knox Mutizwa, who could be the man to watch for Zimbabwe at the tournament, believes they have all it takes to bring the trophy home.

“We should not put ourselves under unnecessary pressure because of the teams in our group. Of course, Zambia, Mali and Uganda are good teams but I want to tell my teammates that let’s go out there and fight and try to win this CHAN tournament.

“Most of us have played together from the Under-23s and I think this is an advantage to us because we know each other very well. We have developed a good understanding,” said Mutizwa.

Defender Ocean Mushure is excited to be part of the team that will represent the nation after missing the previous edition in South Africa when he asked to be excused.

“I failed to go the last time because of injury, but I am happy now I am part of this team that is going to Rwanda. It’s an honour to be selected.

“What is now left is for me to play my bit and hopefully I will add value to the team.

“I think we have prepared to the best of our ability. It looks like we are all fit for the games now so we look forward to play as a team. I also think we are bonding well.

“Probably we should aim to win the first two games so that we gain confidence and set the tone for the rest of the tournament. If we can win the first game, we should then aim for the final.

“It’s possible, we only need to work hard as a team.”

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