Zimbabwe: Pharaohs Hold No Fear for Warriors

A Pharaohs training session.

Zimbabwe's recent international friendly football game against Nigeria is a clear testimony of hidden abilities that have been in a state of comatose for a very long time in our country.

Against Nigeria, our gallant Warriors played with confidence, good defensive discipline and conviction in stepping up to the giants of African football, the Super Eagles.

That performance is not some fluke one-day wonder or a jelly-legged terrifying response after wave and wave of attack from some top African footballers who feature in top European leagues.

Nigeria's line-up that included Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), and others from Brighton & Hove, etc, were made to look ordinary by our Warriors and looking at our discipline in defending from the central midfield areas right up to our own goal, that was a splendid performance that should give any opponents out there some homework and nightmares as to how they hope to break us down.

Going to Egypt with such a solid performance is tickling to say the least, we needed this high confidence just before facing the mighty Pharaohs in their own backyard and as the first fixture of the AFCON tournament.

Without any doubt, pressure is on Egypt and we need to raise the bar in Cairo as we fight for the first win or draw of the tournament.

On paper, Egypt are among the favourites to win the trophy, but our underdog tag can be a silent weapon that could become our advantage once we prove our worth against the highly-fancied North Africans.

From a coaching perspective, I would greatly love to play them now and on the very first game and put them under intense pressure from the first whistle.

We have players in our defensive positions who can deal with their talisman Mohamed Salah, who has set Anfield alight with his dazzling performances for the past two seasons as Liverpool managed to reach the UEFA Champions League finals twice, and winning it this year.

Tendayi Darikwa is our unsung hero who is very solid at right back since he turned a new page of representing his country and, without any doubt, he can deal with Mo Salah all day long if ever the Egyptian dares venture into that right side flank where Tendayi is imperious when playing for Nottingham Forest and Zimbabwe.

Nyasha Munetsi is hugely underrated at this stage simply because very few people know about him.

Our defence has the best prospects any day, physical strength and presence, clinical in thwarting any attacks from set-pieces or high up the pitch as our combative midfielder Marvelous Nakamba is very formidable and always covering the back four.

People are talking of Mo Salah more than about the reality on the pitch that we see as coaches, one huge dent on this Egyptian squad is the glaring absence of highly technical midfield creative players of the yesteryears, Al Khatib, Ramzy Hani etc, had these iconic talented players been actively involved in this game, then this fear of Mo Salah was going to be a serious problem for Sunday "Mhofu" Chidzambwa and his troops.

What Egypt lack today is what they had back then, the Mo Salah of Liverpool (You Will Never Walk Alone) is totally different and can (Walk Alone) in Cairo when we bring our rivalry to the next level of trying to humiliate them on the very first game, in their own backyard and in front of their passionate home fans.

We want to frustrate them from the onset, their game plan revolves around Mo Salah and watching Elneny from my favourite team Arsenal, I am stoically engrossed with the fact that Nakamba can withstand everything in the pending midfield duels.

Elneny has dropped on the pecking order at Arsenal and his displays in the national team have been indifferent to club football where his confidence is very low.

Can Elneny just come out of that shell and torment us in Cairo?

Are we going to be terrified by the mere sight of Mo Salah, or the fact that they play in the English Premiership top clubs?

I beg to differ, Mo Salah will be under-supplied with a midfield that has been a pale shadow of its predecessors, the Ramzy Hanis and Al Khatibs, who could have complemented Mo Salah perfectly well.

Chidzambwa needs to raise the same tempo of defending principles that we witnessed in Nigeria, we need also to allow our wide players like Khama Billiat and Kuda Mahachi to play with tenacity and dexterity, they should be encouraged to dribble in the final attacking thirds with impunity and slow their wing backs from being offensive in overlaps and starting play from the back.

We must put them under intense pressure in their own half and force their over-reliance with Mo Salah mindset change and shift to defending.

Once we achieve a sense of vulnerability in their game-plan, then we can harm them or get a draw as a minimum expectation of this first fixture of the tournament.

Our battles of the good olden days, raging fires right up to France where we beat them with their probably the best ever team, we can bring the same resilience and temperament and defeat them.

Turning to our squad, we definitely have a very good squad but, we overlooked our young players who could have complemented the balancing act of the future development of senior national players.

Lee Mavhunga, Seth Patrick, Macauley Bonne and Admiral Muskwe, any three of these players would have been incisive and strategic in terms of posing alternatives in this tournament.

We could have Bonne or Muskwe as a secret weapon against Egypt, unknown to them and could have been a big stage to give them confidence as they build their new careers.

In midfield, Seth Patrick would have been a good addition as well as a fledgling young player who has been brilliant for Vfb Lubeck in Germany. I fully believe that we have nothing to fear and this game is the turning point of our national team.

If we get a fair result against Egypt tonight, the world will be watching and such a positive result will set tongues wagging, we then can be taken seriously and our march towards redeeming ourselves becomes highly visible.

The donations that have been pouring in front the President (Mnangagwa) and all stakeholders are most welcome, when we can pull resources for this national cause then surely our Warriors should fight a war of our lives, we have done it before and we can still do it now.

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