YEBO! YES! Zim Warriors give region something to cheer about

In Ian Gorowa we trust! Since he took over the hot seat of coaching the man’s senior national soccer team, the former Black Rhinos and Dynamos hit-man has always reserved his best for the last. And in soccer, fans love it more when sad moments give way to cheers, not vice-versa.

Mambare - right, scored the historical goal.
Mambare – right, scored the historical goal.

When Angola and Zambia failed to make it to the 2014 African Nations Championships finals, Southern Africa’s regional pride was placed in the hands of hosts South Africa, The Zimbabwe Warriors and Mozambique. That Zimbabwe qualified at the expense of Southern Africa’s undisputed soccer powerhouse, Zambia – who Gorowa’s boys beat 1-0 away in the second leg of the qualifiers, put even more pressure on Zimbabwe’s shoulders, as they marched onto the Athlone Stadium turf on Monday night.

Both South Africa’s Bafana Bafana and Mozambique’s Os Mambas bit the dust and crashed out with losses to West African nations, Nigeria and Mali on Sunday, leaving Zimbabwe with the toll order of having to pull a Southern African Houdini Act the following day.

Despite commendable displays in their first two games – against Morocco and Uganda, which all ended in 0-0 stalemates, the stakes were heavily staked against Zimbabwe. On the past two occasions that they had played in these finals, The Warriors had crashed out in the first round. Add that to the fact that they were meeting Burkina Faso – West Africans whose regional neighbours had claimed Southern African scalps just the day before, and in need of nothing short of a victory to make it through, nobody could have wished to be in any of the Warriors technical and playing staff’s shoes.

However, another commendable display from Zimbabwe, who had already earned themselves the nickname “BaWarrior BaWarrior” from local soccer fans after the hosts bombed out, carried the day for the whole SADC region.

With the unwavering support from the combined nations, The Warriors secured their passage into quarter-finals; vice captain Masimba Mambare’s solitary strike off a Milton Ncube cross in the 56th minute seeing them through to a date with Mali at the Cape Town Stadium, the same venue this piece of history was made.

Mali qualified as winners of Group A, the same group that saw Bafana Bafana end third. This obviously means an unfinished goal for South Africans and these West Africans, when The Warriors take them on this Saturday evening.

Gorowa and his boys are therefore, assured of even more support as they march out of the dug-out to face a side that, despite having beaten Nigeria and Mozambique in the group stages, have hardly been convincing.

Zimbabwe also do not have a bad record against the West Africans, having given away just what they have gotten in return – wins at home and losses away. With this being a neutral venue that has more support for them, The Warriors carry the advantage.

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