Warriors' tough Gabon road

THE Warriors will have to be at their best to make an impression at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Gabon after they were drawn in a difficult Group B on Wednesday night.

Zimbabwe get their campaign rolling with a tough opening match against Algeria at the Stade de Franceville on January 15.

Algeria are the second highest ranked team on the continent and have some exciting talent in the likes of Leicester City’s pair of Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani.

The Warriors would, however, take heart from the fact they beat the Desert Foxes the last time the two sides met at the 2006 Afcon finals.

It is not well in the Algeria camp after they sacked national team coach Milovan Rajevac two weeks ago, just over three months after he took charge.

The Desert Foxes drew 1-1 at home to Cameroon earlier this month in the opening round of matches in the final phase of African 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Assistant coaches Nabil Neghiz and Yazid Mansouri have replaced the 62-year-old Rajevac on an interim basis until a successor is appointed.

The Warriors second game at the competition is against Senegal on January 19 at the same venue.
Zimbabwe also met the Lions of Teranga at the 2006 finals but lost 2-1. This will be another tough game for Kalisto Pasuwa’s side as Senegal is also laden with top talent.

Senegal boasts of the likes of Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City, Sadio Mane of Liverpool and the West Ham pair of Diafro Sakho and Cheikhou Kouyate.

Idrissa Gueye, who has caught the eye of many with his energy-filled performances for Everton this season, is also a member of coach Aliou Cisse’s strong Teranga side.

The Warriors round up their Group B campaign with a clash against Tunisia at the Stade de l’Amitie on January 23.
With two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals, Zimbabwe need at least one win and a draw to reach four points from this group if they are to dream of reaching the last eight.

Meanwhile, newly-elected Gabon Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet insisted that the country is in good shape to put on the 31st edition of the finals.

Speaking at Wednesday’s draw in Libreville Issoze-Ngondet dismissed speculation that recent political instability in Gabon could force the Confederation of African Football to relocate the tournament.

“We will not back away from the tournament. We are ready and we will organise an exceptional tournament,” he said.

Morrocco coach Herve Renard, who won the last tournament with Ivory Coast, was pleased with the draw despite his side being drawn in a tough Group C with his former side.

“It’s a very tough group. If I had to choose teams to avoid before the draw, I would’ve chosen some of the teams in our group,” he said.

“This is football and this is how the draw wants it to be. We will have to prepare ourselves very well. There will be an important emotional value but we will have to ignore all that because we will face Cote d’Ivoire which is very difficult especially when you have had the chance to know these players, and it is technically the same group. It will be tough but we have to be competitors.

“The match against Togo will be even harder on me during the 90 minutes but I will have to forget all what this man (Claude Le Roy) has done for me and do everything to win over.”

2017 Afcon Groups
Group A: Gabon, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea Bissau
Group B: Algeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Zimbabwe   
Group C: Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Morocco, Togo
Group D: Ghana, Mali, Egypt, Uganda

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