3 neighbours, one AFCON ticket
Harare – A mouth-watering battle to claim the remaining sole ticket for a place at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), pitting the Southern Africa trio of Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe looms large on the horizon.
The AFCON finals, which were supposed to be held this year in Cameroon, will be held in 2022 in the West African country.
As teams brace for the final two rounds of qualifying fixtures next month, Group H is particularly intriguing from a Southern African perspective.
Continental champions Algeria have already sealed their place after amassing 10 points from four matches, leaving neighbours Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe to wrestle for the remaining ticket.
Zimbabwe’s Warriors have five points to their name, a single point ahead of the third-placed Zebras of Botswana; while Zambia’s Chipolopolo anchor the mini-log with three points.
Zimbabwe next face Botswana away in the penultimate round on March 25, with Zambia hosting Algeria in Lusaka.
Four days later, Zambia travel to Harare while for a date against the Warriors with the Zebras embarking on the long journey to Algeria in the final round of fixtures.
Botswana coach Adel Amrouche and his Zimbabwean counterpart Zdravko Logarusic have already named provisional squads for the upcoming fixtures.
The Botswana gaffer has picked predominantly locally-based players; but Zimbabwe’s Logarusic is in a bind.
The latter, who is winless in the six matches he has been in charge of the Warriors, may fail to secure the services of Europe-based players.
English clubs may refuse to clear their players for the assignments as participants are required to spend 10 days in isolation upon their return to Europe.
Aston Villa midfielder Marvellous Nakamba, Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura, Brendon Galloway of Luton and Tendayi Darikwa, who plays for Wigan Athletic, could all be affected and miss out on the crucial fixtures.
But Logarusic insists he has good-enough replacements should push comes to shove.
“I have named 33 players in my squad and if it happens that others fail to come, I will be having enough in the camp. The deciding fixtures will be tough against both our neighbours Botswana and Zambia but we know what ought to be done.”