ZIMBABWEANS have every reason to be anxious ahead of this Armaggedon.
Their team, the Warriors, might be perched on top of Group G ahead of the final round of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, but any slip-up against Congo Brazzaville at home on March 24 could all but dash their dream of a fourth appearance at the continent’s ultimate football fiesta to be staged in Egypt in June.
Zimbabwe retain control of their own destiny and need to pick at least a point from the winner-takes-all duel against the Central Africans to secure their place at the 24-team tournament.
Coach Sunday Chidzambwa earlier this week picked a strong side to do duty against the Congolese.
But, if there is a country whose people will always confess that there are no guarantees in football, then it must be Zimbabwe.
Just six years ago, the Warriors, despite hefty promises from the Zimbabwe Football Association, government and other individuals, melted on the stage as they failed to defend a healthy 3-1 first leg lead and fell 0-2 away to Angola as they handed over the AFCON ticket to the hosts.
That was the umpteenth time the Warriors had flattered to deceive as in 1991, needing a home victory against their next opponents to make it to Senegal the following year, the team conceded very late in the game to share the spoils with their guests who qualified ahead of Zimbabwe.
Two years after that debacle, the Warriors couldn’t also utilise home advantage, as they once again let in a late goal against a grief-stricken Zambian team, fresh from an air crash disaster which wiped the entire senior team.
But Chidzambwa was nowhere near the dugout in all those three catastrophes.
While he respects Congo Brazzaville who themselves know any result which is not a win will mean disaster, Chidzambwa has reassured Zimbabweans this time around, the team will make it right.
“This is football, very unpredictable and so forth but, we are out to win the match. We have picked the best possible team to face Congo Brazzaville. We are playing at home and we are aware of all the disappointment fans had to endure in the past.
“We hope to get it right and please our fans,” he said.
If Chidzambwa manages to negotiate his way past the Congolese, he will become the first Warriors coach to lead the team to two AFCON appearances after shepherding the country to its first ever appearance in 2004.
ZIFA has since offered the team huge incentives should they succeed in downing Congo.
The association’s president, Felton Kamambo, refused to reveal the figures but confirmed the players will walk away with huge benefits if they manage to qualify.
“We understand our opponents have been promised something if they manage to beat us on March 24. As ZIFA, we have also offered our players huge incentives if they manage to take us to Egypt.
“We are as good as any, but in football anything can happen. We will give the players a lot to motivate them though I am not at liberty to divulge the figures,” he said.
Other Southern African teams who still have a chance to make it to Egypt include, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique as well as Comoros.
Madagascar have already qualified for the tournament which could become the first to see at least seven countries from this region participate at once should they get their act right in the final round of qualification.