The national soccer team ‘Taifa Stars’ will be fighting for a place in the next stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, as they take on host Zimbabwe in a decisive second leg match at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Sunday.
Taifa Stars arrived in Harare on Thursday, a day earlier than scheduled with a delegation of 30 people. Coach Mart Nooij side received a big morale booster following the release of their star players Thomas Ulimwengu and Mbwana Samata by their club TP Mazembe.
The duo are part of the DRC club that is playing in the group stages of the CAF Champions League. They joined the rest of the Taifa Stars squad in Harare on Friday morning and will immediately after the match proceed to Ndola, Zambia, where their club is camping in preparation of their next Champions League assignment against Egypt side Zamalek.
The arrival of Samatta and Ulimwengu was a big relief to the Dutch coach who is aiming to break the team’s 34-year jinx in the continental competition.
Stars need to strike early to pile pressure on the hosts who would then need to reply with not less than three goals under the away goals rule.
Stars last qualified for the finals of the tournament in 1980, but the side has seen substantial improvement in recent years and they have renewed hopes under the Dutch mentor.
Nooij has challenged his charges to secure an important away win against Zimbabwe as they seek to march into the second round of the qualifiers.
Stars might have scrapped through with a solitary John Bocco goal against Zimbabwe Warriors a fortnight ago in the first round, first leg but coach Nooj is taking the return leg match in Harare seriously.
Nooij warned his players against any complacency while playing with the more determined Warriors who saw a clear goal denied in the first leg played at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
“We have a tough outing against Zimbabwe who are a very good side and we cannot afford any slip-ups when we face them over the weekend.
It is definitely a daunting task but I always believe nothing is impossible if we can manage to score another early goal then we will have an advantage,” Nooj was quoted by Cafonline.com.
“I have urged my players to give 100 per cent in this important clash as it’s our only opportunity to proceed to the second round of matches and Tanzania being a football crazy country where fans love the game a lot we would not wish to disappoint them at all, despite facing tricky opponents who fired from all cylinders when we played in the first leg,” Nooij added.
Stars conducted their second training session on Friday afternoon and coach Nooij was not in the mood to engage with the local media. He has covered his plans in secrecy since his arrival in Zimbabwe.
The Taifa Stars beat Malawi in a build-up match at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday with midfielder Amri Kiemba scoring the lone goal in the 36th minute.
On his part, Warriors coach Ian Gorowa said they will be going all out in search of goals today. Zimbabwe are under pressure to overturn the 1-0 defeat if they are to sail through to the next round.
The Warriors, admittedly, have a tall order as their opponents appear to have thoroughly prepared for this first round tie with a series of friendly matches.
However, Gorowa said the Warriors have done their homework following the shock first leg defeat.
Zimbabwe have also beefed up their squad by calling in Libyabased forward Edward Sadomba, who is enjoying good form with Al Ahly Benghazi in the Champions League and Belgium-based midfielder Ovidy Karuru. “We are ready.
I think we have done our preparations so we should be ready by now. We only got one more training session tomorrow and then that’s it.
Winners are almost certain to face Mozambique in the second round. The Mozambicans had a flying start when they thrashed minnows South Sudan 5-0 in their first leg tie and will be looking to wrap up the contest this weekend
Source Tanzania Daily News
Decisive day for Stars in Harare