Mighty Warriors assistant coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda has urged the Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon)-bound troops to make the most of the time remaining as preparations for the continental championships began in earnest yesterday.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The Shadreck Mlauzi-coached olympians conducted their first training session for the women football showcase — to be hosted by Cameroon beginning November 19 — at Zesa Training Centre yesterday morning.
With Zifa initially intending for the team to commence camp for Awcon on September 26, the broke association failed to come up with a plan for the team to begin preparations in good time.
Preparations commenced 40 days later than initially planned and just 16 days before the tournament roars to life.
“We would have wanted more time to prepare, but that did not happen and we have to work with what we have. The message to the girls when we got into camp was, whatever time that we have left, we have to use it to the fullest to make sure we are ready for competition,” Sibanda told Standardsport.
“And we are pleased with their response because they showed a lot of eagerness to work in camp today [yesterday] although a lot of them seemed rusty at times,” she added.
Mlauzi called 26 players into camp and is set to trim the squad to 21 before the team departs for Cameroon next week.
Following the valiant Rio Olympics performance under difficult circumstances, Mlauzi was on record saying with adequate preparations, the team could bring the Awcon Cup home.
In the current context, the Mighty Warriors technical department seems, however, to have lost some belief.
“We have no set targets because we don’t want to put pressure on the team. All we are aiming for is to go out there and give it our best and make the nation proud,” Sibanda said.
Unlike at the Olympics where the Mighty Warriors were pitted against three teams that are in the top 10 in the Fifa World Rankings, the Zimbabweans this time face Cameroon, South Africa and Egypt.
The Mighty Warriors remain the lowest ranked team in Group A, despite making it to the Rio global games last August.
Cameroon occupy third place in Africa after Nigeria and Ghana while South Africa are ranked fourth, with Egypt ninth on the continent. Zimbabwe is in 13th position.
Zimbabwe begin their campaign against neighbours South Africa on November 19 before entertaining Egypt on November 22 and will wind up the group stage fixtures with a date against Cameroon.
The top two teams in the group will proceed for the semi-final stage of the competition, which concludes on December 3.