Harare - Zimbabwe are certainly one of the underdogs in this year’s edition of the Virtual Netball World Cup which kicks off at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England this week.
The contest runs between July 12 and July 21.
Malawi are apparently in the same bracket with their SADC counterparts, with Uganda also bearing the same tag.
The fourth African representatives at this 16-team quadrennial tournament, South Africa, are not exactly minnows but they are definitely not one of the favourites to land the trophy which has for decades been personalised by Australia.
But, that is only as far as bookmakers are concerned.
The Gems of Zimbabwe are making their debut appearance at the global fiesta and one would expect them to go out there just to enjoy themselves.
But coach Lloyd Makunde does not subscribe to that.
He has challenged his charges to put their bodies to the wall to defend the Zimbabwean flag and make Africa proud.
The Gems, just like their African colleagues, left for the tournament, whose next edition will be staged in South Africa, last week with players and staff expressing confidence they will do well in England.
“We are Zimbabwean Gems. We are going to the Netball World Cup not by chance but we managed to earn a place to go and participate there.
“We know we are widely seen as the underdogs, which is an advantage anyway, but we are Zimbabwe. We have the right personnel to carry us through.
“This is our very first appearance at the World Cup but, this shouldn’t in any way affect our performance at the global stage. We are going out there to defend our flag and make Africa believe,” said Makunde.
The gaffer, whose team recently saw sponsors falling over each other despite a false start to their camp, believes his team has all the ingredients to stun the world.
“We have all we cried for in our team. We have the skill, the height and the stamina which I think is sufficient to conquer the world.
“We are happy with the underdog tag which we are carrying going into the World Cup. It will put pressure off my players. But at the end of the day, we are not flying all the way to London just to make the numbers, no”.
Zimbabwe are pooled together with serial champions Australia, Sri Lanka and Northern Ireland in Group A.
The same spirit which has been shown by the Gems is also manifest in the other trio from this continent.
Though Africa has tried, in vain, to land the world crown on previous occasions, South Africa, who in 1999 came within 60 minutes of winning it, have reaffirmed their eagerness to fight for it this time around.
Malawi and Uganda have put in place all the necessary logistics which would prime them to snap it up or at least go further than the group stages.
The South African Proteas battle it against Jamaica, Fiji and former champions Trinidad and Tobago in Group C, while Malawi are in Group B along with New Zealand, Barbados and Singapore.
Uganda will have to be at their best to come out with something from Group D where they face off with giants England, Scotland and Samoa.