WARRIORS defender Costa Nhamoinesu says Zimbabwe should not make the fatal mistake of underrating Malawi as they aim to go out to cement their place at the top of Group L in an African Cup of Nations soccer qualifier at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
Zimbabwe are three points clear at the top of Group L and they need maximum points to maintain their dream of gracing the continental football showcase in Gabon next year after a decade of agony on the sidelines.
Nhamoinesu, who scored a beautiful header against Swaziland in the last match at the same venue two months ago, said Malawi could be potential party spoilers.
The Flames are almost out of reckoning, but they are still hoping to finish the campaign strongly.
The Flames lost the first match to Zimbabwe 2-1 in their own backyard and anchor the group with two points while the Warriors have amassed eight.
And Nhamoinesu is wary of Malawi and expects them to give the Warriors a good run for their money on Sunday.
“We played them in the first game (in Group L) and we won but obviously this is a different stage in football and this is also a different stage in our qualifying round.
“We know that they are a team eager to win, they are not coming here to throw away points. So we will approach the game with caution.
“We will have respect for our opponents but we will put maximum effort so that we can collect (maximum) points here at home,” said Nhamoinesu.
Zimbabwe last qualified for the continental event back in 2006, but missed the successive finals, sometimes having come agonisingly closer.
But with their rivals Swaziland and Guinea, who are tied on five points, clashing in another match in Mbabane on Sunday, Nhamoinesu believes the Warriors need to have control of their own destiny.
“This is a moment for us. This is not only a moment for us the players. It’s a moment for us the millions (of Zimbabweans). Everyone wants to go there (to the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon).
“So this is the time that we have to die a little so that we go there. That’s why we are putting maximum effort in our preparations in order for us to get to the Promised Land.”
The Warriors continued with their preparations with a practice match against Uganda at Rufaro on Tuesday.
However, coach Callisto Pasuwa did not use most of his foreign-based professionals in the match, preferring to give seven locals places in the starting line-up.
Zimbabwe still won the match 2-0, courtesy of goals from towering defender Teenage Hadebe who headed in identical situations from corner kicks taken by Kuda Mahachi.
Although Nhamoinesu did not play a part in that match, the Czech-based defender was happy with the result and the depth in the squad.
“The preparations are going on well and we have just completed our friendly match with a good result which is a morale booster for us. So, so far so good.
“It was a positive result. This is something positive for us. This is something which shows that we have depth. It was a different team from the one that played Swaziland the last time out.
“This is good for us because if we manage to qualify for the AFCON finals we will need depth, we will need cover and that was a good performance (against Uganda) in my opinion,” said Nhamoinesu.
The Warriors technical team have all the players in camp including Matthew Rusike who arrived from his base in Sweden yesterday. The South Africa-based trio of Khama Billiat, Tendai Ndoro and Cuthbert Malajila arrived on Tuesday to join a band of local and foreign-based players called for Sunday’s assignment against Malawi.
Warriors’ skipper Willard Katsande also challenged his teammates to raise the bar. The Kaizer Chiefs hardman, who had a successful season with the former South Africa champions after cleaning the boards at the club’s end of year player awards ceremony, believes the battle for qualification is still on.
Both Swaziland and Guinea still have realistic chances of qualifying should the Warriors slip up in the last two group matches. Zimbabwe will round off the qualifiers away in Guinea in September and they would need to win this weekend to avoid pressure going into the final match.
“Obviously we want maximum points, especially playing at home because that’s the only way we are going to qualify by picking up maximum points.
“We also need to approach this game with much discipline. We mustn’t get carried away by the previous result because of all those showers of praises. We need to start from scratch when it comes to Sunday’s match.
“We need to work hard because the only way to achieve results is through hard work. So we can’t just rely on the fact that we have good players and that we had a good result in the last match.
“All we need to do is to focus on the game and give a five-star performance and try to be victorious on Sunday,” said Katsande.
“They (Malawi) are still a threat. Mathematically they are still running for the best placed runner-up position, if I’m not mistaken. So they will obviously make it difficult for us. Also they need to spoil our party.
“So we are much aware of what’s at stake. We only need to approach the game in a respectful way whereby we listen to the coach’s game-plan and try to execute it.