WARRIORS captain Masimba Mambare believes the underdog tag worked in their favour when they upstaged their more illustrious opponents, Zambia, in their own backyard at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola on Saturday to claim a place at the African Nations Championships (Chan) finals next year.
KEVIN MAPASURE RECENTLY IN NDOLA, ZAMBIA
After a disappointing nil-all draw at Rufaro Stadium in the first leg, few would have given the Warriors a chance of going through, let alone winning the second leg.
But a 63rd minute strike by FC Platinum attacker Charles Sibanda and a gritty performance by Devon Chafa and Danny Phiri at the base of the defence, as well as the defensive work of Hardlife Zvirekwi, Patson Jaure, Eric Chipeta and Milton Ncube, ensured passage to South Africa in January next year.
Mambare, excluded from the starting line-up, heaped praise on the technical team for the tactical decisions they made.
“After the draw at home very few people thought we could make it,” Mambare said. “But even after the nil-all draw at home, I retained confidence and belief that we could still come to Zambia and get a positive result.
The good thing is that everyone in the team was confident and we approached this game with a positive mind and we got what we wanted.”
Mambare said the team was spurred on to prove their doubters wrong and the underdog tag eased off pressure.
“I think the underdogs tag worked in our favour because Zambia was very confident. They were actually looking beyond us, but we were focused and went about our preparations quietly. Nobody gave us a chance and that gave us extra motivation.”
Mambare said he was not surprised when he was named as one of the substitutes because the coaches had communicated that they would employ new tactics.
“We had discussed it at training. We knew that they would play around with the squad and positions. Everyone was supportive of their ideas and we are all happy that it worked well for us. We surprised Zambia a bit because they did not expect anything different.
The plan was to make sure that we shut the doors at the back and make sure that we did not concede and then use the speedy strikers, Charles Sibanda and Nelson Mazivisa.”
With Zimbabwe coach Ian Gorowa employing a two-man defensive midfield, Zambia wonder-boy Bruce Musakanya, who mesmerised fans in the first leg at Rufaro Stadium, was stifled.
Zambia enjoyed the possession, but struggled to get into the final third and goalkeeper George Chigova only made one crucial save.
Mambare said everyone in the team was excited that they had qualified, adding that they would continue to work hard, now that fans would expect even more.
“It’s a wonderful feeling that we have qualified. We have been working hard and God has rewarded us. Now we have to stay focused and continue working hard so that we are a better team come January.”