HARARE – Although the Warriors hold the aces in Group L of 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, Guinea’s win over Malawi on Tuesday has complicated matters. By Nigel Matongorere
According to the rules and regulations of the qualifying tournament, head-to-head results between the concerned teams will be used as a tie breaker in the event that there is a tie in points.
Article 14 of the regulations reads: “In case of equality between two teams at the end of the group matches, the teams will be ranked according to the following criteria in the order listed below:
“The greatest number of points obtained in the matches between the two teams concerned;
“The best goal difference in the matches between the two teams concerned;
“The greatest number of away goals scored in the direct encounters between the two concerned teams;
“The goal difference in all group matches;
“The greatest number of goals scored in all group matches;
“A drawing of lots conducted by the Organising Committee.”
After four matches in the group, the Warriors are now in first place with eight points following Monday’s emphatic 4-0 win over Swaziland.
Sihlangu dropped to second place as they remained on five points while Guinea also moved to five points after their 2-1 win over Malawi on Tuesday in Blantyre.
Guinea remain in third place as they have an inferior head-to-head to Swaziland after losing to Sihlangu when the two teams met at a neutral venue in Morocco last year.
Malawi anchor the group with two points and the Flames are mathematically out of the race of qualifying for Gabon.
This leaves Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Guinea fighting to top the group at the end of the qualifying campaign.
The Warriors still have to play Malawi at home and travel to Conakry to play Guinea in their remaining two matches.
To book their ticket for the finals, Zimbabwe need at least four points to get to 12 since Swaziland and Guinea can only reach 11 points.
Guinea are the Warriors biggest threat at the moment because in the event they beat Swaziland in Mbabane in June and the Warriors also beat Malawi then the last group match in September will be like a cup final.
The Warriors will go into that match on 11 points while Guinea would be only three behind on eight points.
To top the group the Syli Nationale would only need to beat Zimbabwe by any scoreline to achieve a superior head-to-head advantage over the Warriors.
Knowing the modus operandi of West African teams when hosting such crucial qualifiers, the Warriors would be subjected to all kinds of psychological warfare by the Syli Nationale the moment they touch down in Conakry.
It will take strong heads and a well-disciplined performance from the Warriors to emerge from the Stade de Septembre 28 — a venue where Zimbabwe has suffered a lot at the hands previous Guinea sides.
The Syli Nationale players will obviously target some of the Warriors key players like captain Willard Katsande, who is always fully committed in every tackle he makes.
Katsande and his teammates will need to be smart enough not to be caught up in the silly mind games the Guineans will employ to try and Warriors players sent off.
However, before we can even start to think of a tough trip away to Conakry, the Warriors should not underrate Malawi in their penultimate match in Group L.
Of course the Flames have been doused but they will not be coming to Zimbabwe for a holiday in June.
Malawi will be playing for pride alone while all the pressure will be on the Warriors as they will be after the three points.
The temptation will be for Zimbabwe to go out gung ho in search of goals without paying any attention to defence in this game.
But this might be risky as Malawi have shown that they can be competitive by the goalless draw they achieved in Conakry on Good Friday when most expected them to be crumble.