BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
THE Warriors will get to know their opponents for the 2021 Afcon finals when the draw finally takes place at the Yaoundé Conference Centre, in Cameroon on Tuesday evening.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare arrived in Cameroon yesterday for the draw and will be joined by Zifa president Felton Kamambo today while the Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic will not be in attendance as he is currently in his native Croatia.
Zimbabwe qualified for a fifth Afcon appearance after finishing second in Group G behind defending champions Algeria in a group that also comprised neighbours Botswana and Zambia.
The draw was initially postponed in June due to logistical challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, but the 24 qualified countries will finally be drawn into six groups of four.
Five cities in Cameroon will host the biennial tournament, which starts on January 9 until February 6.
Mpandare told Standardsport from Yaoundé yesterday that they were hoping to avoid the hosts in the group stages.
“Our only hope is that we avoid the hosts so we are fine to draw every other team. It’s always tricky playing against the hosts in the group stages because they will be at home and have the fans behind them,” Mpandare said.
“Remember the last time we were drawn against hosts Egypt and we lost to them not because they were a better side, but simply because they were playing at home.
“Every other team we have a good chance of beating them because we will be playing in a neutral venue. In the qualification stages we managed to draw against champions Algeria and I reckon if we play them in a neutral venue it can go either way. One thing for sure is that we have a very strong team,” he said.
Zimbabwe are in Pot 3 of the draw according to the Fifa international rankings and will get a chance to draw one weaker team in Pot 4 which comprises Malawi, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Comoros, Ethiopia and Gambia.
However, the Warriors have a World Cup qualifier commitment in two weeks’ time where they are scheduled to take on South Africa at home on September 1 and travel to Ethiopia four days later.
The technical team is yet to release the squad for the upcoming assignments with foreign-based players expected to dominate the list.
“The team is already there but we have decided to hold on to it until we get a response from Fifa on the power that clubs have to hold on to players called up for national duty. We also want to understand what it would mean for the players to report for national duty in terms of quarantine regulations when they return.
“We wrote to Fifa a long time ago and we are just waiting for a response before we release the squad. Otherwise all the players are interested in joining the national team,” Mpandare said.