HARARE – Although they were outclassed by Senegal on Thursday night, the Warriors are still optimistic they will qualify for the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side bubble finally burst as they were brought down to earth by a humbling 2-0 defeat at the Stade de Franceville in Gabon.
The Lions of Teranga showed their pedigree and why they are the number one ranked side on the continent as first half goals from Sadio Mane and Henri Saivet secured the West Africans’ second win of the tournament securing their passage to the last eight stage.
There were times during Thursday’s match when it turned into a contest between the Senegal forwards and Warriors goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva.
The 21-year-old keeper pulled off some world-class saves to deny Mane, Balde Keita, Moussa Sow and Mame Diouf.
Senegal could have won the match by a wider margin had it not been for Mkuruva’s brilliance and the woeful finishing by Diouf at times.
The defeat was a hard pill to swallow for the Warriors fans, who had had their spirits lifted following the good performance in the 2-2 draw against Algeria in the opening game.
For a team which had not qualified for the Afcon tournament since 2006 and were robbed of their best player, Knowledge Musona just a few minutes into the Algeria game, it was always going to be an impossible task against Senegal.
But what made the performance against the Lions of Teranga dreadful is the fact that Zimbabwe never really troubled Senegal goalkeeper Abdoulaye Diallo much.
While Senegal had 24 shots at goals throughout the entire match, Zimbabwe managed only three shots at goal.
It was by far one of the Warriors’ poorest display at the Afcon tournament since their first qualification in 2004.
But Pasuwa is not losing hope and believes his side will seal their passage into the last eight of the tournament.
“It was those two quick goals that unsettled our team and you could see most of the time they had the ball, they were jittery. Had it not been for those two early goals we could have seen a better show from the boys,” Pasuwa said.
“Yah, we are still favourites (to progress to the quarter-finals). It’s important that we win our last game against Tunisia. We have played two games and have seen our weaknesses and strength and we will try to work on that so that we can collect three points in our last game.”
Warriors captain Willard Katsande felt they were punished for their poor defending.
“It was a new game with a different package (and) at the end of the day, our biggest letdown was the manner (in which) we defended,” Katsande said.
“We needed to defend better, especially in the critical early stages of the match. When you are playing in such tournaments like this you need to be jealous with your goal. So in the past two games, we conceded too early, which is not good enough playing in Afcon.
“I think the day we gonna (sic) work on defending properly and try to get to 45 or 60 minutes without conceding a goal with the kind of quality we have in the team, I think we gonna (sic) win matches.”
The Warriors shifted their base from Franceville and arrived in the Gabon capital of Libreville yesterday afternoon.
The team will start preparations today for the final group game against the Carthage Eagles on Monday evening.
With only one point from two matches, Zimbabwe need to beat Tunisia and hope Senegal does not lose to Algeria on the same night.