‘Billiat, Musona key to Zim hopes'
Posted: 9 September 2016 Time: 12:20
“In football, anything is possible. If Zimbabwe manages to make it past the first round of the Africa Cup of Nations, momentum could carry them to the semi-finals, but the group stages are the main obstacle.”
These are the words of retired Bafana Bafana forward Phil Masinga, in his assessment of how South Africa’s neighbours are likely to fare during next year's African Cup of Nations.
With all the other countries from the Southern African having failed to make it to the continental football showcase, the regional spotlight is likely to fall on Zimbabwe when the games kick-off in January.
While Zimbabwe international Tapuwa Kapini is rather sceptical of his country’s chances of reaching the semi-finals, another former Warriors player – Robson Muchichwa – has urged Willard Katsande and company to shake off the underdog tag and make history.
Masinga – who was part of the Bafana teams that won the AFCON title in 1996 and finished second behind Egypt in 1998 – tells KickOff.com that the current crop of Zimbabwean players could make them a genuine threat at the finals in Gabon.
“To me, Zimbabwe have a very strong side," says Masinga.
"[Khama] Billiat and another player from Orlando Pirates [Tendai Ndoro] are playing very well in South Africa, as is Willard Katsande.
"These players will be very crucial. Then you have [Knowledge] Musona, who we all know of here."
The former Mamelodi Sundwons and Jomos Cosmos forward says the challenge for coach Caliso Pasuwa is to come up with an effective technical approach – one that would be influenced by the kind of teams that Zimbabwe will face in their group matches.
“One advantage that Zimbabwe will have is that you have a number of players who are playing in South Africa so the international exposure is already there. Knowing each other well will also add to the team spirit in camp,” Masinga adds.
In two successive attempts in 2004 and 2006, Zimbabwe have never made it beyond the group stages of the Afcon tournament.
This time around – with the likes of Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari no longer playing competitively – the Southern African nation will be banking on a new generation of players.