CAF release CHAN fixtures list

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe will begin their quest for glory in next years Orange African Nations Championship (CHAN) with a date against Niger and end finish their first round assignment against neighbours South Africa .

The competition, whose inaugural edition in the Ivory Coast last year, was won by the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is scheduled to run from 4 to 25 February in Sudan and fixtures released by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) last week penciled-in the Warriors for a clash with Niger at Madany – some 200km from the capital Khartoum on the night of February 5.

The 8pm clash will come barely two hours after the Warriors other Group B opponents Ghana and South Africa, would have clashed in a 5.30pm kickoff at the same venue.

Zimbabwe will then clash with home-based stars of 2010 World Cup quarter-finalist Ghana at the same venue and time, but four days later, while South Africa and Niger will fill-in the early kickoff schedule of 530pm. On February 13, Zimbabwe will travel to Hilal, where they will complete their Group B schedule with an 8pm duel with South Africa s Amabinneplaas, while Ghana and Niger simultaneously clash at Madany to find the groups top two teams that will progress to the next round.

February 16 and 17 will be rest days, while the team that comes top in Group B will clash with the second-placed team from Group A in a quarter-final match in Madany at 830pm, on February 18, the same day that the second-placed team in the Warriors group will face-off with Group A winners at 5pm in Hilal. The quarter-final matches will be completed on February 19, followed by another two-days rest before the semi-finals are played on February 22, third place play-offs on February 24 and the final the following day.

South Africas coach, Simon Ngomane, has already described Group B as the toughest and mentioned Zimbabwe as one of the tournaments toughest opponents, as they make a second successive appearance in the tournament.”You look at Ghana for example who did extremely well at in the FIFA 2010 World Cup and you look at their youth development,” said the South African coach, adding that he would not also discount fellow CHAN debutants Niger .

“They have proved that they can step up to the level on the continent. We know them very well from the game against Bafana and they were difficult even after we scored two goals against them in the Afcon qualifiers and of course, we will be looking forward to the derby. Zimbabwe are a very strong team and seem to be growing by the day,” said Ngomane, who is not in the usual South African national team coaching department.

“In a tournament like this, every game you play will be tough and one has to be mentally and physically prepared for it. If we can achieve that, am convinced we can progress if we have a good start.” The DRC lifted the inaugural edition of the competition, while Zimbabwe came out in a disappointing sixth position, having achieved only three draws in as many matches and the Warriors will be seeking to win this years tournament to atone for that disappointment.

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