HARARE – Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa believes his side will not be intimidated by the physicality Senegal will bring when the two teams clash at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations tonight.
The match kicks off at 9pm at the Stade de Franceville in Gabon this evening.
Zimbabwe enters the match high on confidence following the thrilling 2-2 draw against Algeria in the Group B opener at the same venue last Sunday.
The Desert Foxes took an early lead through their star forward Riyad Mahrez but Zimbabwe rallied back through goals from Kuda Mahachi and Nyasha Mushekwi.
Pasuwa’s side was just nine minutes away from a famous victory before Mahrez equalised to salvage a draw for the Desert Foxes.
Senegal opened their tournament with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Tunisia on Sunday after goals from star man Sadio Mane and defender Kara Mbodji.
However, the Lions of Teranga were on the back foot for long periods during that game with goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo pulling off some world class saves to deny the Carthage Eagles.
“We as Zimbabwe, we have prepared well for the game against Senegal. It’s a big team we are going to play and us as Zimbabwe, we have done our homework; we will pick up from where we left off against Algeria in our last game,” Pasuwa told reporters during his press conference yesterday.
“Considering the fact that Zimbabwe in our last two tournaments we lost our first matches and now having a draw in the first match here it’s a plus sign on our side. It has given motivation to the boys to go and play better against Senegal than they did in the Algeria game.”
The Lions of Teranga showed they are a mean side in that win over Tunisia and they are likely to try and use their brawn tomorrow against the Warriors.
“When playing against these teams like Senegal, you need to be very brave on the ball and very aggressive,” Pasuwa said.
“We are not going to let them go easily. We are going to play the same type (physical) of football as they do. We will continue playing the passing game as usual, some of our boys are small and if we pump long balls forward, it will be a disadvantage on our side. We need to keep possession in order for us to get into their attacking third.”
The Warriors coach has faith in his squad that they collect maximum points against Aliou Cisse’s side.
“If as a coach I tell my players that I’m not confident ahead of the match against Senegal then we are already defeated before the match,” Pasuwa said.
“I’ve told my boys that we are going to be on top against Senegal and that’s the level of confidence in our camp. We are still the favourites in this group. We wanted the result bad against Algeria because of the problems we had back home. It has given us an extra morale booster.
“As a coach you plan according to how Algeria plays and when you play Senegal, you plan according to how Senegal plays.
“The way we played against Algeria is not going to be the same way we will play against Senegal. We will bring another new dimension in the game against Senegal.”
Warriors vice-captain Cuthbert Malajila, who missed a glorious chance to secure victory against Algeria, said the players were geared up for the challenge against Senegal and will take inspiration from their performance against Algeria.
“As players we are feeling good. We know we are playing Senegal and as Zimbabwe, we have prepared enough and we are ready to go; we can’t wait any longer for the game,” the Bidvest Wits forward said.
“I think considering our last game, we have done well, we have confidence in ourselves and I think this is a plus for the team. We are looking forward to the game.
“Back home the entire nation is behind us and they believe we are the golden generation of players. They know what we are capable of doing and they know what we can do on the field.
“Like what the coach said, the draw against Algeria was a plus for us and the people are expecting us to go and do well against Senegal.”
The Warriors will be without star forward Knowledge Musona for tonight’s game after he injured his hamstring on Sunday against Algeria.
The KV Oostende striker is likely to be fit for next Monday’s clash with Tunisia in Libreville.
Midfielder Marvelous Nakamba makes a return to the side after serving a one-match suspension during Sunday’s match.