HARARE - Four SADC countries are back home following their catastrophic exit from the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt in the group stages.
In an expanded 24-team edition of the biannual competition, SADC countries were expected to give a good account of themselves after qualifying en masse but the quartet of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania have all fell by the wayside.
Zimbabwe couldn’t negotiate their way past the round-of-16 bound trio of hosts Egypt, Uganda and the DR Congo while Namibia failed to assert themselves against Morocco, Ivory Coast and South Africa.
Angola, on the other hand, faltered against Tunisia, Mauritania and Mali with Tanzania dwarfed by Algeria, Senegal and Kenya.
The individual brilliance displayed by some players from this region failed to spur the quartet into the knock-out phase and its back to the drawing board, once again.
A lot of positives have been drawn from the failed expedition and the teams definitely have a good foundation to start building from.
All hope is not lost for the bloc though as three teams are still hunting for the ultimate continental honours.
South Africa, the DR Congo as well as the tournament’s dark horses and debutants Madagascar are through to the last 16.
In fact, SADC is guaranteed a representative in the quarter finals since Madagascar and the DR Congo face off in one of the most enticing last 16 duels.
The SADC derby is on this Sunday and it’s certainly going to draw a lot of interest from the people of this region.
While the DR Congo qualified by virtue of being one of the four best placed second runners up, Madagascar topped their group, without tasting defeat.
The DR Congo lost their opening two games by an identical 2-0 score line to Uganda and Egypt before crashing Zimbabwe 4-0 to place themselves in an ideal last 16 qualification position.
Madagascar drew 2-2 with Guinea, beat Burundi 1-0 before nailing favourites Nigeria 2-0 as they made a loud statement of how much they have advanced in terms of their game.
Although his team exited, in rather embarrassing fashion, Zimbabwe Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa rallied the remaining SADC countries.
He said people from this region should now back the trio of South Africa, Madagascar and the DR Congo as they try to defend the SADC flag.
“Obviously, as Zimbabwe we are upset, absolutely after crashing out of the tournament in such a humiliating fashion.
“Sometimes we were unlucky but overall, we are very disappointed for having let the country and the region in general, down. We have the experience but still failed to apply the basics in several aspects but that’s the nature of football. You win some and lose some, something like that,” said Chidzambwa.
“We may have been eliminated but there are still some countries from the SADC region who are at the fiesta. They are trying to defend the region’s flag and we all have a duty to support them. Madagascar have been phenomenal, South Africa and the DR Congo are perennial campaigners.
“So we have faith in them. We wish all of them some good luck.”
AFCON Round of 16 fixtures
Friday 5 July 2019
Morocco v Benin 4pm
Uganda v Senegal 7pm
Saturday 6 July 2019
Nigeria v Cameroon 4pm
Egypt v South Africa 7pm
Sunday 8 July 2019
Madagascar v DR Congo 4pm
Algeria v Guinea 7pm
Monday 8 July 2019
Mali v Ivory Coast 4pm
Ghana v Tunisia 7pm