Katsande predicts tough Congo battle

Ray Bande Senior Reporter
FORMER Warriors’ captain Willard Katsande believes that getting a draw away in the Democratic Republic of Congo would be a good result for the senior men national team.

Zimbabwe resumes its fight for a place at the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament to be played in Cameroon when the Warriors take on Democratic Republic of Congo away in Kinshasa tomorrow (Saturday).

The match starts at 7:30pm (Central Africa Time).

The Warriors travelled to Kinshasa before hosting the DRC in Harare on Tuesday in back-to-back matches that could well define Zimbabwe’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations Group G campaign.

Zimbabwe lead Group G log standings with four points after their 3-0 win over Liberia at home, which they followed with a 1-1 draw away in Congo Brazzaville a fortnight ago.

DRC are second on the standings on point difference after their 3-1 win over Congo, before they were held to a surprise 1-1 draw away in Liberia, making their meeting with Zimbabwe next month a crucial contest.

The team that will come out victorious from this battle is almost assured of qualifying for the Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon next year.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) coach Florent Ibenge announced a strong roster for the two encounters against Zimbabwe.

Katsande, who was back home in Mutare during this week’s international break, told Diamond FM on Monday night that the two matches will not be easy for the national team.

“This is going to be a more difficult assignment that the Congo Brazzaville one. Most people might think Zimbabwe will build up from the good performance from the Congo Brazzaville match and simply win against Democratic Republic of Congo but that’s not it.

“I once played in Africa and DRC in particular, it is not an easy place when you are an away team. The hospitality is poor starting from accommodation in the hotels and the food. Even in the playing field there are a lot of hostilities. We need to go there for a draw.

“The reason I am saying so is that we are still on top of the log standings and we are playing against the team in second position therefore we will finish of the game in Harare in the reverse fixture. We need a point away in Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Katsande.

With a lot at stake in these back-to-back encounters, media reports indicate that Ibenge has gone for broke by naming a strong 36-man provisional squad to face the Warriors.

The roster is headlined by the speedy and tricky Aston Villa winger Yannick Bolasie, who is returning to the squad after an injury lay off.

Bolasie missed the Leopards’ 1-1 draw away to Liberia last month in which they needed a late equaliser from Elia Meschak to salvage a point.

The 29-year-old winger, who joined Villa last month on a season-long loan from Everton, is working his way back to full fitness and is likely to be a handful for the Warriors if he is selected to start.

West Ham full back Arthur Masuaku is another big name in the squad to face the Warriors.

Masuaku and his Hammers teammates had a torrid start to the 2018-19 English Premier League season after suffering four straight defeats.

Stoke City forward Benik Afobe is also in Ibenge’s squad and is in line to add to his already four caps for the Leopards.

The London-born striker represented England at youth international level before eventually deciding to represent the DRC as he qualifies through his parents’ heritage.

Afobe, who honed his skills at Arsenal, has so far scored four goals in 10 appearances for Stoke in the Championship.

Upfront, Afobe is likely to be partnered by the China-based Cedric Bakambu, who was omitted for the Liberia clash despite being in fine form.

Bakambu scored a brace in the Leopards’ 3-1 win over Congo in their opening Group G match last year but was a notable absentee in Liberia.

The former Villarreal forward is currently in fine for his China Super League side Beijing Gouan where he has scored 14 times in 19 matches.

Former Chelsea protégée, Gael Kakuta is also in the DRC squad and is set to make his debut in a competitive match for the Leopards.

Kakuta represented France at junior level but finally decided to play for the Leopards and made his debut in a friendly international last year.

The midfielder, who is now on the books of La Liga side Rayo Vallecano was at one time touted to be a future Chelsea star but it did not work out for him at Stamford Bridge.

CAMEROON 2019 AFCON QUALIFIER FIXTURES

ROUND 3

Friday, 12 October 2018

Cameroon v Malawi, (16:30pm); Angola v Mauritania, (17:00pm); Gabon v South Sudan, (17:00pm); Guinea v Rwanda, (18:30pm); Nigeria v Libya, (18:30pm); Cape Verde v  Tanzania, (19:00pm); Egypt v Eswatini (19:00pm); Ivory Coast v Central Africa, (19:00pm); Togo v Gambia, (20:00pm); Mali v Burundi, (21:00pm); Algeria v Benin, (21:45pm)

Saturday, 13 October 2019

South Africa v Seychelles, (15:00pm); Uganda v Lesotho, (15:00pm); Equatorial Guinea v Madagascar, (17:00pm); Mozambique v Namibia, (17:00pm); D.R. Congo Vs Zimbabwe, (19:30pm); Burkina Faso v Botswana, (20:00pm); Morocco v Comoros, (20:00pm); Tunisia v Niger, (20:15pm); Senegal v Sudan, (21:00pm)

ROUND 4

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Madagascar v Equatorial Guinea, (13:30pm); Guinea Bissau v Zambia, (18:00pm); Kenya v Ethiopia, (18:00pm):

Monday, 15 October 2018

Sierra Leone Vs Ghana, (17:00pm); Libya v Nigeria, (20:00pm):

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Comoros v Morocco, (14:00pm); Malawi v Cameroon, (14:30pm), Burundi v Mali, (15:00pm); Eswatini v Egypt, (15:00pm); South Sudan v Gabon, (15:00pm); Rwanda v Guinea, (15:30pm); Seychelles v South Africa, (15:30pm); Central Africa v Ivory Coast, (16:00pm); Tanzania v Cape Verde, (16:00pm); Benin v Algeria, (17:00pm); Niger v Tunisia, (17:00pm); Lesotho v Uganda, (18:00pm); Gambia v Togo, (18:30pm); Botswana v Burkina Faso, (19:00pm); Mauritania v Angola, (19:00pm); Namibia v Mozambique, (19:00pm); Zimbabwe v D.R. Congo, (19:00pm); Sudan v Senegal, (19:30pm); Liberia v Congo, (20:00pm):