BY HENRY MHARA

WARRIORS midfielder Ovidy Karuru says Zimbabwe could have done a lot better at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt had it not been for the financial problems that rocked their camp during the course of the tournament.

The team lost 1-0 to hosts Egypt in the opening match of the tournament, but produced a gallant performance that attracted rave views from across the world.

They were then held to a 1-1 draw by Uganda in their second match.

They failed to put away the numerous chances that came their way.

However, a bonus row between the players and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) then rocked the Warriors camp ahead of their final group match against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

So bad was the standoff that Zifa, at one point, threatened to withdraw the team from the tournament.

Consequently, Zimbabwe were massacred 4-0 by DRC to crash out of the tournament.

Karuru, speaking on the Cosafa podcast yesterday, said he was confident the team could have done better had it not been distracted by the bonus row.

“People saw how good we played against Egypt and had it not been the financial problems that we had, we could have done better,” the star player reflected.

“We had a good team there, and we could have gone further in the tournament, but due to the problems that we are facing in the country, we could not do it. Those are some of the distractions that we had.”

The Afcon finals were the last time the Warriors were in action. Their 2022 Afcon qualifying campaign was called off in March just weeks before they could face African champions Algeria in back-to-back qualifiers.

Karuru was part of the squad that had been called into camp for the match. The qualifiers have been postponed to next year.

“We have a very good team. We have quite a number of players who are playing in Europe, who are able to come to the party in games against teams like Algeria. We are ready for them, we are not afraid of them. Football nowadays in not about big teams, but how you play as a team and the self-confidence that you have as a team.

“For us, we have been playing together as a team for a long time now and we know how each of us plays. We understand each other better. It’s going to be tough, but remember the last time we went away to DRC and beat them, so anything can happen in football.”

While the Afcon qualifiers have been postponed to next year, there are 2022 World Cup qualifiers that are due to start in November for the Warriors, if the coronavirus situation permits.

Zimbabwe are in the same group with neighbours South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia.

Karuru, who is based in South Africa playing for league side Stellenbosch FC, is looking forward to the clash against Bafana Bafana.

“We have been waiting to play [Bafana Bafana],” Karuru says of the World Cup preliminary games.

“We always want to play against South Africa because when we are here [in the Premier Soccer League] at our clubs, we always talk about it.

“We have missed the Battle of Limpopo! That one is going to be our toughest game because neither team wants to lose. When it comes to Ghana and the other team [Ethiopia], we just have to go there and get a result, then we take them on in the reverse fixture on our home ground.

“But against South Africa, there is no home, no away. With so many guys playing here [in the PSL], it is going to be a tough one. I don’t see us losing those games (against South Africa).”

Karuru also spoke about new Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić, who took over from Sunday Chidzambga who retired after the team’s failed Afcon campaign.

Logarušić had assembled a team for the African Nations Championships (Chan) finals which were due in April, but were also postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Chan tournament is for locally-based players only.

“I don’t know much about the coach, but from what I have heard, they said he is a straightforward coach. He thrives on discipline because I heard there were players who were almost chucked out of camp for coming late for lunch. He seems to be a strict coach, but in terms of his tactics, I don’t know much about him,” Karuru said.

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