'We are ready to rumble with Senegal,' says Kaizer Chiefs hardman Willard Katsande

18 January 2017 - 18:32 By Mninawa Ntloko
Zimbabwe's goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva (back) prepares to block a shot on goal by Algeria's forward Islam Slimani (C) during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group B football match between Algeria and Zimbabwe in Franceville on January 15, 2017.
Zimbabwe's goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva (back) prepares to block a shot on goal by Algeria's forward Islam Slimani (C) during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group B football match between Algeria and Zimbabwe in Franceville on January 15, 2017.
Image: KHALED DESOUKI / AFP

Zimbabwe captain Williard Katsande has issued a rallying cry to his Warriors team-mates and urged them to stand their ground against tournament favourites Senegal in a potentially explosive African Nations Cup showdown in Gabon on Thursday night.

The Zimbabweans face the highest ranked African nation on the Fifa rankings at the Stade de Franceville (9pm‚ SA time) in a mouthwatering Group B clash and Katsande told Times Media Digital from Gabon that they have done their homework on their more fancied opponents.

‘‘It is going to be difficult because they (Senegal) won (their opening match of the tournament) and they have confidence at the moment‚” the Kaizer Chiefs midfield strongman said.

‘‘But we going to prepare for them accordingly. Come Thursday we will be ready to rumble again.

‘‘We are going to work on our game plan based on the team‚ their strengths and weakness.”

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Senegal — perched at the summit of the continental rankings and at 33rd place on Fifa’s global list — will go into this simmering encounter with their tails up after beating Tunisia 2-0 in their opening match of the continental showpiece on Sunday.

The star-studded Senegalese also have the added incentive of knowing that a victory over Zimbabwe would be enough to enable the Sadio Mane-inspired West Africans to become the first qualifiers for the quarterfinals in Gabon.

Zimbabwe‚ on the other hand‚ have to pick themselves up after coming within eight minutes of beating Algeria 2-1 before eventually settling for a 2-2 draw in their opening game.

Katsande said they have put the disappointment of letting Algeria off the hook and allowing Leicester City forward and CAF’s player of the year Riyad Mahrez to score the deflating equaliser behind them.

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‘‘Obviously we were disappointed (after the 2-2 draw with Algeria) but at the same time we worked so hard in that game.

‘‘We told ourselves to take that one point, that will help going forward (because) no one gave us a chance (against Algeria.”

News that Zimbabwe’s main striker Knowledge Musona will most likely miss the match which will have made many of their fans nervous‚ given what the pacy forward brings to the table.

The Belgium-based Musona retired early with a hamstring injury in the opening match against Algeria on Sunday and some reports claim that he will not recover in time to face Senegal.

But Katsande refused to throw in the towel and said he remained hopeful that the former Chiefs striker will pass a late fitness test and line up against the Senegalese.

‘‘The medical team are busy with him we will hear the outcome. We will wait for the doctor’s report.

‘‘But we need him (Musona) in our next encounter as we search for maximum points.”

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The Chiefs midfield strongman‚ who takes no prisoners on the pitch‚ said Southern Africa’s sole representatives in Gabon still believe that not only will they emerge from their group but they will reach the semifinals of the biennial event.

He added that they have enough talent in their ranks to step up a gear on Thursday and go toe-to-toe with the Senegalese.

‘‘That is our main objective ......to go beyond the group stages and then we take it from there.

‘‘Don't forget that we have quality which can upset any opposition. We need to get to semifinals and take it from there.”

— TMG Digital

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