The Herald (Harare)

10 October 2012

Zimbabwe: Mission Possible

WARRIORS' hot-shot Khama Billiat, eyeing a maiden appearance at the grand stage of the Nations Cup finals, has challenged his teammates to overcome all odds and embrace their destiny by completing the mission when Zimbabwe face Angola in an explosive qualifying decider in Luanda on Sunday.

Billiat was the star of the show when the Warriors turned on the power on the Palancas Negras to secure an important 3-1 victory in the first leg at Rufaro last month.

That victory has not only given the Warriors, but an entire nation, reason to believe that the country's flagship team will be among the 16 sides that will line up at next year's Nations Cup finals in South Africa between January and February.

The former Aces Youth Academy winger, who had a brief stint at CAPS United before joining Ajax Cape Town, capped yet another fine show in the Warriors' colours when he scored once in that 3-1 triumph at Rufaro on September 9.

Billiat is one of the players the multitude of Zimbabwean fans will be counting on to deliver when the Warriors square-off against the Angolans at the 11 November Stadium in Luanda. The talented forward, speaking after the Warriors' training session at the Italian Sports Club, said he was also aware that he could come under the spotlight in the reverse fixture in Luanda but insisted that the big battle "is all about the team and not an individual".

Billiat said the fact that that victory would earn them a place among an elite group of Africa's 16 best teams was serving as the biggest motivational factor for all players in camp.

"We are looking forward to the game, everybody is ready . . . we have worked hard to get this far, we know it's going to be difficult out there but we also know that the 90 minutes on Sunday will decide our individual careers.

"I have never been to the Nations Cup, most of us in the squad have never been there and we want to go there and get to know how it feels so we have to beat Angola. We also know that there are a lot of opportunities that come with playing at the Nations Cup finals and we want to grab all those opportunities," Billiat said.

Billiat said although he gave the Palancas Negras defenders a tough time in the first leg, he would not sit back and continue to bask in the glory of that memorable sunny afternoon at Rufaro.

"I have never been satisfied with my performance because I always want to do better so that I can be fit enough for the next game so I just have to keep working hard and trying to improve all the time".

The Warriors, Billiat also said, were bracing themselves for a hostile atmosphere in Luanda but the Ajax Cape Town forward said his team needed to rise up to the challenge to prove their pedigree.

"We are fully aware of the fact that they will be at home and they will have a lot of support but we don't need anyone to encourage or motivate you on such a game because this is a golden chance to make names for ourselves.

"If we qualify we will be part of history and it will be good for us as players, for our football and for the country as well," Billiat said.

Billiat also felt that the pressure would be more on the Angolans as they have a deficit to overcome which could work in the Warriors favour.

The 22-year-old has emerged as one of the best players in the current generation of the Warriors and his impact on the senior team has not escaped the attention of assistant coach Peter Ndlovu.

Ndlovu reckoned that Billiat was playing some of his best football that just needed to be complemented by his team mates when the Warriors descend on Luanda.

The former Warriors captain said Billiat was one of the players the senior side would be banking on "to hurt the Angolans" on Sunday.

"We will need to unsettle the Angolans and we have the players who can hurt them.

"Khama is on top of his game at the moment and now that we have goal scorers like Kingston Nkatha, Edward Sadomba, Cuthbert Malajila and Knowledge Musona, we can only get even better and we are confident we will go through," Ndlovu said.

Nkatha, Sadomba, Malajila and Musona missed the first leg at Rufaro but their availability has widened coach Rahman Gumbo's selection options for the Luanda battle in which Ndlovu said the Warriors could not afford to sit back and defend.

Zimbabwe legend Ndlovu also rallied the entire nation to back the Warriors in their cause for a place at the Nations Cup finals.

"As long as you are Zimbabwean you know how crucial this game is for us.

"We are not going to sit back and let them attack. Our game plan will be based on total football and the basics and we want to make it hard for them each time we win the ball," Ndlovu said.

The Warriors assistant coach, who has been to Angola on a number of occasions as a player, said they would approach the game as if it is their first meeting with the Palancas Negras.

"We will approach the game as a 0-0 affair and if we can get a goal first in Luanda then we will kill them off because the pressure would just be too much for them and that is what we are aiming for," Ndlovu said.

King Peter said the best way to keep the Angolans at bay would be to press them throughout the game and the former Coventry City and Sheffield United striker also welcomed the availability of the players who were cleared from the Asiagate match-fixing scam and were drafted into the squad.

"The new players will add value and it is good to have our best players all the time. My advice to them is that people will be watching to see how they will do now that they are back but without putting any pressure on them I think they should show what they have".

Ndlovu also said the presence of a number of seasoned players in the squad would augur well for the Warriors in their tough test of character.

"All the experienced guys we have like Tinashe, Takesure, Energy, Esrom, Edward, and Cuthbert are captains in their own right, so it is just not about Kapini being the captain.

"Leaders are not just the ones who wear the armband, all those guys are leaders and it is good for us as coaches because it means you do not have to stand up and give instructions all the time," Ndlovu said.

The Warriors coaches were happy to have an almost full house in camp with Noel Kaseke and Carlington Nyadombo joining in yesterday despite sitting out the team's first full workout together with Vusa Nyoni.

Swedish-based midfielder Archieford Gutu, Quincy Antipas, Onismor Bhasera and Nyandoro were, however, expected to report for duty later yesterday.

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