IAN GROROWA and his team of local-based Warriors begin their search for continental glory this afternoon at New George V Stadium against Mauritius in the first round, first leg of an African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier.
FROM MICHAEL MADYIRA IN
QUATRE BORNES, MAURITIUS
The match kicks off at 1pm Zimbabwe time. In his first match as Warriors coach, Gorowa will be in the town of Curepipe this afternoon hoping to make a giant step towards a third Chan appearance.
The tournament would he hosted by South Africa next January and Zimbabwe would be seeking to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time. Having started work last Wednesday, Gorowa comes up against coach Akbar Patel who was in charge of Mauritius in the two sides’ last meeting on October 17 2009 in the Cosafa Cup at Rufaro in a match where Zimbabwe prevailed 3-0.
In six meetings between the two sides, Zimbabwe have won five times and lost only once back in August 1982 away in a 0-2 defeat the first-ever clash between the regional counterparts.
Despite carrying a minnows tag, Mauritius, could cause an upset if they draw inspiration from a rare 2004 feat which saw them stun South Africa in the first round of the Cosafa Castle Senior Challenge Cup at this afternoon’s venue. Zimbabwe have recorded emphatic victories in Mauritius before after posting a 4-1 win in May 1989 in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
“We have to brush them aside.
They are a small team, but we do not want to carry that in our minds,” Gorowa said.
“I do not know much about them, but Benedict Moyo watched them at the Cosafa Cup and he has given me a few tips about how they are. I am sure that would come handy.
But Mauritius should not trouble us that much and I am confident we will beat them.”
Zimbabwe conducted three training sessions since their arrival in Mauritius on Thursday night and yesterday they had a morning workout at the match venue.
Defender-cum-midfielder Prosper Matizanadzo sat out the training yesterday complaining of a stomach ache. Gorowa appears to be already looking ahead for the next and final round clash where they could meet old foes Zambia who have to overcome Botswana.
“We have to come out strong after this match because Zambia could be waiting for us. It is good that the players are beginning to understand each other from what I recently saw at the Cosafa Cup. This is one match where we have to count positives especially in terms of improvements,” he said.
At a time when Mauritian populace had lost interest in their underperforming team, the arrival of Zimbabwe – viewed as a giant in African football – has generated interest. A taxi driver Kiran Pithia already felt intimidated by Zimbabwe.
“We know Zimbabwe are a very big side and I know they will beat us,” he said.
Led on the field by veteran skipper Colin Bell, Mauritius have youngsters like forward Gurty Calembe, Cedric Permal and midfielders Luther Rose and Christopher I’Enclume. The islanders’ recent record is a 4-0 win over Seychelles at the Cosafa Cup.They also lost 2-1 to Namibia.
They beat fellow islanders the Comoros with a 2-0 aggregate scoreline in the preliminaries to reach this round.