Warriors, Bafana 2022 World Cup qualifier clash reignites memories. Fate has somehow conspired to ensure the Warriors and Bafana Bafana rarely clash in both the Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers. As Zimbabwe shift attention to their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign, their opening showdown with South Africa has brought back memories of their last meeting on a similar mission.
But in their quest for a place at the global soccer showcase in Qatar, the two teams would have to outdo each other to clinch top spot in the group and proceed to the last hurdle of the Africa Zone qualifiers.
Although the showdown is on June 5, preparations for the encounter are set to begin in earnest, with Zimbabwe coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic expected back in the country on Saturday to ready his side.
Loga had taken a sabbatical and returned to his native Croatia after guiding the Warriors to AFCON qualification last month. But there is no doubting the huge interest that any meeting between the Warriors and Bafana Bafana generates.
This is the first time the Warriors are playing their neighbours in a World Cup qualifier since May 5, 2001 when South Africa won 2-1 in Johannesburg on their way to the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan/South Korea.
The reverse fixture, which had been played at the National Sports Stadium on July 7, 2000, still evokes sad memories as 13 fans perished in a stampede during the match that the visitors were eventually declared 2-0 winners.
Back in those days, South Africa had a talented cast of European-based stars led by the attacking duo of Shaun Bartlett, who was then at Premier League side Charlton Athletic, and Delron Buckley, who was plying his trade in Germany.
Warriors’ talisman Peter Ndlovu was one of the few Zimbabweans in elite leagues, but at that time his Sheffield United were in the English second-tier league.
But as the Warriors look to take another crack at the seemingly elusive World Cup slot, the tables have now turned, with Zimbabwe having a bigger presence in key European leagues such as the Premiership and French Ligue 1.
Percy Tau, who turns out for Brighton & Hove in the English Premiership, is the only player with the highest profile in the Bafana Bafana squad.
Unlike in 2000, the Warriors now boast of having the likes of Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Tino Kadewere (Olympic Lyon) and Marshal Munetsi in the English and French top-flight, while skipper Knowledge Musona (Belgium), David Moyo (Scotland) and centre-back Teenage Hadebe (Turkey) are also involved in elite leagues.
Zimbabwean players have since 2000 also made their presence strongly felt in the South African Premiership.
It is against this background that the Warriors begin the countdown towards the eagerly awaited renewal of their rivalry with South Africa. “The coach Loga (Logarusic) should be back in Harare on May 1. He was on a short break,” ZIFA technical director Wilson Mutekede said.
There were also concerns about Loga’s qualifications after it was reported the 55-year-old’s UEFA Pro Licence badge, which he used to get the Warriors job, was fake. However, the Croatian Football Federation confirmed that Loga’s qualifications were valid.
While the Warriors coaching post is not a matter for debate, South of the Limpopo, the South African Football Association (SAFA) are yet to appoint a new coach after sacking Molefi Ntseki, who failed to guide Bafana Bafana to the AFCON finals in Cameroon in January.
SAFA postponed announcing the new coach on Friday “due to international Covid-19 travel issues”, which all but confirms they are going for a foreign coach. According to reports from South Africa, Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, Frenchman Herve Renard and Belgian Hugo Broos are the shortlisted candidates.
It is, however, understood that former Real Madrid gaffer Queiroz is the front-runner for another dance with Bafana Bafana. Back home, Loga will fly into Harare to spearhead preparations for the crunch tie amid a public debate sparked by former Everton defender Brendon Galloway’s sensational Warriors U-turn.
The Luton Town defender has expressed interest to finally play for the Warriors despite snubbing the national team on numerous occasions. Galloway successfully renewed his Zimbabwean passport on Friday and increased prospects for a possible call-up.
Sources close to Queens Park Rangers striker Macauley Bonne told The Sunday Mail Sport that the forceful player had also changed his mind. “Galloway’s passport was processed in Harare yesterday (Friday), so chances of him coming are now high,” Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare said yesterday.
Galloway went to England when he was nine and did his Grade One studies in Zimbabwe. Both his parents have Zimbabwean passports. The Warriors manager also revealed that he started sounding out players whom Loga is eyeing for for the World Cup qualifiers “soon after the Zambia game”.
Zimbabwe lost 2-0 against Zambia in their last AFCON qualifier on March 29. The Warriors will, however, bank on the experienced duo of skipper Musona and Khama Billiat, plus the European-based quartet of Kadewere, Nakamba, Munetsi and Hadebe.
There are many who believe the 2022 World Cup is Zimbabwe’s best chance to appear at the global showpiece given the array of talent and deteriorating standards in both Ghana and South Africa.
Source – Sunday Mail
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