Johannesburg — ZIMBABWE'S Warriors avoided the real heavyweights, but still have a lot of work on their hands after being paired against old enemies Angola in a cagey 2013 African Cup of Nations final qualifying derby tie for a place in South Africa.
There was a possibility the Warriors could have been paired against Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana or defending champions Zambia, but instead, they got the Palancas Negras.
The two Southern African rivals were paired against each other at a colourful draw conducted at the Emperor's Palace in Johannesburg that was conducted by the Confederation of African Football last night and beamed live on satellite television across the global audience.
Five South African cities will stage the 29th edition of the African Cup of Nations with the opening match scheduled for the Soccer City in Johannesburg on January 19 next year.
But the Warriors would have to negotiate their way past Angola first before they can dream of taking their place in any of the host cities, Johannesburg, Durban, Rustenburg, Port Elizabeth and Nelspruit.
In the draw conducted by two of Africa's football legends -- former Bafana Bafana skipper Neil Tovey and ex-Nigerian striker Daniel "The Bull" Amokachi -- with the help of Caf secretary-general Hicham El Amnara, Rahman Gumbo's men will host the first leg on September 9 while the reverse fixture is pencilled for the weekend of October 12-14.
Zimbabwe and Angola were the second fixture to be drawn after Mali, the first team out of the drawing pots were paired against Botswana with the West Africans being at home first.
Gumbo was on hand to witness the draw in which the 15 seeded teams were pooled in Pot A while Zimbabwe and other lowly ranked nations were in Pot B.
The Warriors coach was flanked by Zifa chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze and the association's board member competitions Benedict "Grinder" Moyo during the draw. Gumbo immediately declared the draw as fair and revealed that he would pull all the stops to ensure his side is well prepared to clear the final hurdle to the road to South Africa in what would be Zimbabwe's third appearance at the continental soccer showcase.
"Let's face it - I think is a very fair draw for us. We could not have asked for more. We need to really prepare.
"We are playing at home first and the strategy should be to finish the game at home and ensure we really have the advantage by the time we go for the second leg.
"As a technical team we now have to really dig deeper and find out more from what we know about Angola, but the key lies in good preparations and those preparations must not be left until late," Gumbo said.
Moyo, who is also the acting board member for development, was even bolder in his reaction to the draw.
"The gods have smiled on us. We couldn't have asked for a better draw. In fact we actually hope that bad officiating does not affect us especially on occasions when you have to finish the second leg away from home.
"But the onus is upon us to start our preparations as early as next weekend when we meet with the coach and the technical committee.
"We will have to assist the coaches to analyse everything they need about Angola," Moyo said.
Moyo also maintained that both Zifa and the Warriors would not have any excuses if the senior team failed to qualify.
"We will not have any excuse, but to be in South Africa. Our prime target as the board has always been to go to the Nations Cup and we said the World Cup would be a bonus and this is minuted from our previous meetings.
"We are going to ensure that everything that has to be done, will be done once we get the coach's blueprint," Moyo said.
Mashingaidze said his office would now work round the clock to ensure the Warriors get enough time to gel through playing friendly matches and utilising the August 15 Fifa date for international friendlies.
The Zifa chief executive also pointed to the Four-nation tournament on July 18-19 in Botswana where the Warriors have been invited as the official start of their preparations.
"It is now up to us to avail the resources that the coach and his players need in order to prepare and eventually overcome Angola. Of course, Zifa alone cannot sustain this and we call upon the corporate world and Government to come on board and help the team clear this last qualifying hurdle," Mashingaidze.
That the draw was conducted two months before the first leg ties also gives both Gumbo and Zifa ample time to plan for the Warriors' showdown with the Palancas Negras.
Zimbabwe and Angola have met several times in the World Cup qualifiers, Nations Cup qualifiers and the Cosafa Cup.
In fact the two sides together with Nations Cup holders Zambia and 2013 hosts South Africa are easily the four biggest teams in the Southern African region.
The Warriors against Palancas Negras clash was not the only derby tie to emerge from last night's draw with the potentially explosive West African derby between
Africa's number one team Cote d' Ivoire and Senegal, easily the pick of the draw.
Didier Drogba's Elephants will be at home first in their clash against the Lions of Teranga while holders Chipolopolo also face what Football Association of Zambia president Kalusha Bwalya described as a cagey assignment against Uganda.
"It's a tough draw for Zambia, we are the champions, but we will have to prepare hard for it.
"This is the Nations Cup and at this stage you do not get any easy teams, all the games will be tough but you just have to work hard to win and go through," Bwalya said.
Fifteen winners from the final round of qualifiers will join South Africa in the tournament.
Mali v Botswana, Zimbabwe v Angola, Ghana v Malawi, Liberia v Nigeria, Zambia v Uganda, Cape Verde v Cameroon, Mozambique v Morocco, Sierra Leona v Tunisia, Guinea v Niger, Sudan v Ethiopia, Libya v Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire v Senegal, DRC v Equatiral Guinea, Gabon v Togo, Central African Republic v Burkina Faso.