Zimbabwe Warriors Face Uphill Afcon Opener vs. Algeria

Fancied Algeria open their 2017 African Nations Cup finals Group B campaign with a clash against Zimbabwe on Sunday (16h00 GMT) as they seek to provide momentum for a tilt at the title to end a 27-year wait for continental glory.

The match at the Stade de Franceville looks on paper a one-sided contest, but Algeria will be well aware of recent failures that have seen them flatter to deceive.

The side is led by Belgian coach George Leeskens, who knows the importance of a win on Sunday in a pool that also includes Tunisia and Senegal, and believes in what could be a tight group, lesser-fancied Zimbabwe could hold the key.

“The match against Zimbabwe will be crucial. Everyone is talking about Tunisia and Senegal, but I think we need to be very wary of this team. I see it as a very tough game,” Leeskens told FIFA.com. “We have to defend as a team and not give our opponents any gifts. We need to try and get the first goal.

“The important thing is not to chase after the ball in the opposition’s half, but to make sure we don’t squander the chances that come our way and that we don’t give goals away. The only way we’re going to win at the highest level is by addressing those kinds of issues.

“I’m not the kind of coach who looks to dominate games or who focuses only on attack and leaves gaps in defence. We need to play as a unit and stop the opposition from dictating the play, all while looking for solutions up front.

Zimbabwe have what looks an unbalanced squad with an embarrassment of riches among their forwards, but little top international experience in the defence and among the goalkeepers.

The headache for coach Callisto Pasuwa will be who to leave out among his strikers, with any of in-form Tendai Ndoro, Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Matthew Rusike, Cuthbert Malajila, Nyasha Mushekwi or Evans Rusike providing excellent options as starters.

The side was boosted by a midweek 1-1 draw away in Cameroon in which Ndoro got an early goal.
“So far so good,” Pasuwa said. “We have been covering some areas where we felt we were coming short. If we put everything in order maybe we can go and pull out a surprise. We need these boys to have the right attitude.
“On the last two occasions we were knocked out in the group stages so we are saying this time we want to reach the quarterfinals then we will see what else we can achieve.”

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