Ellina Mhlanga, Sports Reporter
WE are only 90 minutes away from an historic appearance at the Olympic Games and Mighty Warriors coach Shadreck Mlauzi says his players need to attack from the word go at Rufaro tomorrow for their dreams to come true.
The Mighty Warriors lock horns with Cameroon in the return leg of the final qualifier for next year’s Olympic Games.
Mlauzi announced his final squad yesterday with a few changes to the team that played in Yaoundé two weeks ago.
Seasoned strikers Rufaro Machingura and Kudakwashe Basopo bounced back into the team as well as midfielder Mavis Chirandu, who was not part of the team that battled in Yaounde
A 1-0 win over Cameroon will see the senior women side writing their own piece of history by becoming the first Zimbabwean football team to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Zimbabwe lost 2-1 to Cameroon in the first leg but the away goal by striker Rudo Neshamba kept their hopes of qualifying alive.
The Mighty Warriors were the first to score in Cameroon before the hosts fought back to win the game.
Mlauzi said yesterday said they need a more experienced side for this crucial match that will decide their fate for next year’s games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and he was left with no option but to recall some of the seasoned players.
“They are bolstering our squad, they bring in a lot of experience and this time we had to settle for experience. It’s reinforcing the team because it gives us more options,” said Mlauzi.
“We are chasing a game so you will realise most of the players are offensive minded.
“We are up against a good side so we want to strike the right balance on defence and attack, putting more emphasis on us keeping the ball more because we are chasing a game.
“We want to unsettle them early, if not we will stick to what we have been working on, keep pushing them and we need to be patient and continue probing until we break through.
“We have been working with the girls and they know our demands.
“Last time we were limited on our options. We were limited in terms of the offensive side of our game, so going into the previous game we had a particular game plan, because of the number of days we had to look for players that could give the defensive element.
“Now that we are at home and we have the luxury of unleashing the strikers we have.
“I want them to deliver so it’s about pushing the girls. We understand the situation and we are trying to manage the pressure that comes by being in such a position.
“Football is a game of pressure but sometimes as coaches we don’t put it into our heads.”
The Mighty Warriors will be missing star midfielder Emmaculate Msipa, who is suspended for this game, and Mlauzi said although her absence was a blow for the side, they have capable replacements who can take them home.
“Emmaculate Msipa is suspended for this game. She got a yellow card in Cameroon and I understand she got a card in Zambia also,” said Mlauzi.
“But we still have one of our defensive link player (Rejoice Kapfumvuti), to strike a balance. They were partnering in Cameroon, so we are saying from that particular match she understands the tempo of this match.
“It’s always a blow to lose such a player (Msipa) but it’s a chance for the other players, they always want to prove that they can do better and we have more than capable players.”
Zimbabwe are going into the match as the underdogs with Cameroon being the favourites considering that they are regarded as one of Africa’s strongest teams.
They were at the World Cup in June and they reached the African Games finals where they lost to Ghana last month while Zimbabwe were last active in a competitive match in June against Zambia.
ZIFA has set the gate charges for the game at $1 for the rest of the ground, $3 upper grandstand and $5 for the VIP.
Sports and Recreation Minister, Makhosini Hlongwane, was at the Mighty Warriors training session yesterday at Gwanzura where he addressed the players about the importance of a victory and qualification for the Olympic Games.
He also had a chat with the technical team.
Zimbabwe last sent a team to the Olympic Games in 1980 in Moscow, Russia, and the Golden Girls of hockey shocked the entire world by winning the gold medal in their first appearance at the showcase.
The names of those players are etched in gold in the Hall of Fame in Zimbabwe sport and, tomorrow, the Mighty Warriors, who were almost disqualified from this tournament after they failed to travel to Cote d’Ivoire, have a golden chance of joining such illustrious company.
A huge crowd is expected at Rufaro tomorrow for what is set to be a decisive match in the history of domestic football.
Mighty Warriors Team
Chido Dzingirai, Lindiwe Magwede, Eunice Chibanda, Sheila Makoto, Nobuhle Majika (vice-captain), Lynette Mutokuto, Rufaro Machingura, Daisy Kaitano, Rejoice Kapfumvuti, Talent Mandaza, Felistas Muzongondi (captain), Marjory Nyaumwe, Mavis Chirandu, Viola Ndlovu, Erina Jeke, Rudo Neshamba, Rutendo Makore, Kudakwashe Bhasopo.
Faith Chasi, Aldigrade Bhamu.
Referee: Ssemmambo Aisah Nabikko, Uganda
Assistant Referee 1: Nagaddya Cathrine Cynthia, Uganda
Assistant Referee 2: Nkumbi Nakitto , Uganda
Fourth Official: Tuyishime Angelique, Rwanda
Referee Assessor: Glenda Makowe, Botswana
Commissioner: Waweru Gladys Wangui, Kenya