Augustine Hwata Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Warriors attacking midfielder Lazurus Muhoni, who earned the nickname Mali after his priceless goal secured a victory for Zimbabwe during the 2004 African Cup of Nations qualifiers, has challenged the current crop of players to believe in themselves. Zimbabwe will play Mali in an African Nations Championships quarter-final tie at the Cape Town Stadium tonight.
Muhoni, who is still running on a pair of 38-year-old legs in the Division One league, said the fans started calling him “Mali” after his goal at the National Sports Stadium when he was part of Sunday Chidzambwa’s troops in 2002.
“One thing that I want to tell our guys is that there could be no foreign-based players at the CHAN tournament but the style of play by the national teams usually remains the same,” said Muhoni.
“So Mali will play the same type of football they do even when they have their stars from Europe but our boys need to believe in themselves.
“Self belief is very important because it brings confidence in the players. In that game at the National Sports Stadium, I was playing for Black Rhinos in the local league yet some of the players had came from Europe like (Seydou) Keita but I was never intimidated.”
Muhoni said the Warriors should brace for a physical game from Malians who are also good at passing the ball around.
“The West Africans are generally bigger and have more muscle than people from the South, so I advise our players to avoid too much contact.
“We can get a result if we play the ‘touch-me-not’ type of football whereby we hold and then pass.
“One touch football is effective against the stronger West Africans and it also helps in creating scoring chances,” said Muhoni.
Zimbabwe have been wasteful in front of goal at this CHAN tournament and look set to use a lone striker in today’s game while deploying five midfielders with Danny Phiri playing the holding role.
At his peak, Muhoni used to compete with some of the strikers for the Golden Boot although he mainly played as a midfielder.
“This is the knockout stage where getting three or four good chances will be a bonus and the players need to convert the few chances that will come our way.
“I implore that they play as a team and avoid individual play.
“I know that some of them are eager to impress the scouts but that should not be a concern at this stage. Even the issue of money should not be considered for now.
“Those who play well and remain focused can easily be noticed than players who want to get attention and may end up making mistakes because of the pressure,” Muhoni said.
With Zimbabwe being the only remaining country from Southern Africa still in the running, Muhoni feels that a lot of fans in South Africa will be backing the Warriors all the way.
“The tournament is being played in South Africa and the hosts have been booted out, but Zimbabwe remains,” said Muhoni.
“So, in a way, Zimbabwe will have the majority of fans behind them and they will sort of enjoy the home advantage.”