chidzambwa.jpgWarriors head coach Sunday Chidzambwa has cast a ray of hope over the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations draw for the qualifying series that saw Zimbabwe drawn in a group that includes Mali, Liberia and Cape Verde. Zimbabwe’s quest to regain its honor in African football will receive a stern test after Saturday’s draw pitted them against the continent’s ninth best team Mali.

The Eagles of Mali who boast of big names such as Sevilla’s Frederick Kanoute and Barcelona’s Seydou Keita appear to be the Warriors’ biggest threat in a group which also features the Lone Stars of Liberia and Cape Verde.

In an interview soon after the draw, Warriors mentor Sunday Chidzambwa said no one can control the outcome of a draw, but what is important is what will be done afterwards.

Upon learning the outcome of the draw, ZIFA Chief Executive Officer Henrietta Rushwaya took the opportunity to call upon the nation to unite so that Zimbabwe will not repeat the story of the 2010 qualifiers.

Little is known about the strength of Liberia who are ranked 160 on the world rankings and 42 in Africa.

The last time the Lone Stars played was in the 2002 finals hosted by Mali where they crashed out in the first round. Apart from the legendary footballer turned politician George Weah, Liberia has never produced football stars worthy mentioning.

On the other hand, Cape Verde are an emerging soccer nation and their better ranking than Zimbabwe should not be a surprise. Cape Verde are ranked 100 on the world stage and 23 on the continent while the warriors are 117 on world rankings and 32 in Africa.
Despite Mali’s superior rankings, Zimbabwe might have a small psychological advantage in that, the last time the two teams met in the qualifiers the Warriors won at home and drew away maintaining a clean sheet in the process.

Though Zimbabwe finished second behind the Eagles, they however managed to qualify to their maiden AFCON finals in Tunisia.