Afcon 2013: Are we there yet?

Splendid! That’s the best way to describe the result of the men’s senior national soccer team against Angola last weekend. Ninety more minutes of a bruising battle still await the Warriors in Luanda, but most success-starved Zimbabweans are already celebrating a third ever participation in the continental soccer showpiece.

Already gazing across the border - Warriors coaches, Peter Nldovu and Rahman Gumbo are nearly there.
Already gazing across the border – Warriors coaches, Peter Nldovu and Rahman Gumbo are nearly there.

But, are we there yet?A two-goal cushion is what we needed to set one foot across the Limpopo River and the Warriors gave us just that on Sunday. We now need less than a miracle to make the trip, but with ZIFA at the helm, you cannot be so sure and the motto coined over the years should be tenda wasvika.

So, my advice to the multitudes that are already pouring celebratory messages via their various platforms is – hold your horses. Disappointment MIGHT still come and if it does, it will be in the form of men dressed in jackets and tie, domiciled at Number 53 Livingstone Avenue and wielding decisions of unmistakable confusion.

Barring inhibiting decisions from the football mother body, we have strong history-supported reasons to believe that the magic of Rahman Gumbo and Khama Billiat will take us to the “Promised Land”. After all, the duo has combined to set us up on the journey. Our hopes are up and it CAN be done.

Head-to-head statistics indicate a tight contest that gives the Warriors a slight upper-hand and leaves the odds pointing in our favour of ahead of the battle finale. In the 16 matches that the two sides have played in all competitions since 1985, Zimbabwe have won seven, drawn three and lost six.

In eight home matches that include two friendly games, the Warriors have beaten Angola five times, drawn once and lost twice. One game was played in a neutral venue – a Cosafa Cup semi-final match in which the Warriors beat their opponents 2-1 in Mmabatho, South Africa on August 13, 2005.

That said, our away record against the Palancas Negras has been disastrous. The Warriors have not won a single match in their last six outings against Angola since a 3-2 triumph in a friendly game of 1985. Four games ended in losses and two were draws, in what must indicate what we could be up against when we visit Luanda.

But all is not gloom and doom – the Warriors have not lost by a margin of more than one goal in each of those matches. Three ended 2-1, while the last was a 1-0 loss in a World Cup Qualifier on October 10, 2004. In the case of a loss, should Gumbo’s men limit Angola to the traditional trend next month, we will definitely be in South Africa next year.

Another plus for the Warriors is that Angola’s strike force has not been as potent as the Warriors’ backline has been solid. Barring friendlies, the only sides they have managed to beat with a score line of more than one goal have been minnows like Uganda and Mozambique. Those victories have also been few and far between.

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