BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) have given Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga a target to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals and reach at least the quarter-final stage of the competition.
The veteran coach had until the weekend, been working without a contract after it expired at the end of last year.
But he has agreed a new one-year deal with the association, and has been tasked to qualify the team to Afcon.
Zimbabwe are on the brink of qualification, and will need at least a draw against Congo Brazzaville in the last qualifying match set for the National Sports Stadium on March 24 to book their ticket to the finals.
Further, Chidzambga has been tasked to reach at least the knockout stage.
Zifa board member in charge of competitions Chamu Chiwanza revealed that Chidzambga was offered a one-year renewable contract during the association’s board meeting at the weekend. He, however, refused to give the finer details of the contract.
“I can’t disclose finer details of the contract. It’s highly-confidential, but what I can perhaps tell you is that he was given a one-year renewable contract,” Chiwanza said.
Informed sources, however, told NewsDay Sport that Chidzambga was given a target of qualifying Zimbabwe to the finals in Egypt and to at least reach the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The Warriors have never gone beyond the group stages of the continental showpiece in their only three appearances at the finals.
The biennial continental soccer showcase to be held in Egypt in June will be the Warriors’ fourth appearance should they avoid a defeat against Congo.
Zimbabwe are currently sitting at the top of the table in Group G with eight points, but still have what looks to be an up-hill task in their bid to qualify for the finals as they play a Congo side who still have interests.
Brazzaville are bottom of the table in the group with five points, but stand a good chance to secure one of the two slots available from the group if they can beat Zimbabwe.
So open is the group that all the four teams, including second-placed Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, who face off in Kinshasa, are still in with a chance to secure a ticket to the finals.
Zimbabwean football fans still have sad memories of Congo Brazzaville’s last visit to Harare when they forced a 2-2 draw to deny the Warriors their maiden African Cup of Nations final appearance.
With the Warriors leading 2-1 and just needing a win to secure a ticket to the finals, Congo Brazzaville profited from a mistake by the late goalkeeper John Sibanda towards end of the match to force a share of the spoils, and with that Zimbabwe’s Afcon dream was buried at the National Sports Stadium.
This is the time that Chidzambga, who led the Warriors to the first Afcon finals in Tunisia in 2004, would have wanted to have all his best players on board.
However, with key players like Belgium-based midfielder Marvellous Nakamba and Czech Republic-based defender Costa Nhamoinesu unavailable for the decisive clash, it remains to be seen how Chidzambga will manoeuvre.