Zimbabwe coach Kalisto Pasuwa says he understands the expectation placed on his side ahead of the 2016 COSAFA Castle Cup and has promised the Warriors will be well-prepared for the tournament.
The Southern African championship will be staged in Namibia from June 11-25, when Zimbabwe will be hoping to win a record fifth title and standalone from Zambia as the most successful country in the history of the competition.
The side have been drawn in first round Group A along with Swaziland, Seychelles and Madagascar, and Pasuwa says all three opponents will present a challenge.
“It is a cliché in football but it is true, there are no small teams these days and no easy games,” Pasuwa says. “All countries are very well prepared and will provide us with a challenge, we will certainly not be underestimating anybody.
“But we are preparing well and to the same standard that we always do.”
If Zimbabwe make it out of the pool they will face a quarterfinal against Zambia, which will be a titanic clash between two of the giants of the region.
But Pasuwa is not thinking that far ahead.
“We have to concentrate on our group matches first and if we progress, then we can worry about Zambia. We will take every game as it comes and if that means we face Zambia in the quarterfinals then so be it. We will be ready.”
Pasuwa knows there is a level of expectation on the shoulders of the side but says this is something they have to deal with all the time.
“People do expect a lot from us and maybe they should, we have a lot of very good players. We will try our hardest to meet those expectations, that’s all I can say.”
The coach adds he is not yet sure whether he will include players from outside of Zimbabwe in his squad for the COSAFA Castle Cup, particularly the large contingent of talent in the South African Premier Soccer League that includes the likes of Khama Billiat, Willard Katsande and Cuthbert Malajila, who scored twice in the 2009 final to see Zimbabwe past Zambia to lift the trophy.
“That is something we are still working on, it is difficult for me to say now but it is perhaps a question I can answer in two weeks’ time.”
Pasuwa also feels that whatever squad he takes to Namibia, the only real key to their success will be good old fashioned hard work.
“It starts in training, if you put the hard work into training, then you can get the rewards in the match. We do everything to the best of our ability and that has been paying off for us recently with the results we have been getting.”
Zimbabwe’s last match was a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Swaziland in a 2017 African Nations Cup qualifier that should bode well for their confidence in the COSAFA Castle Cup this year.
Pasuwa was also in charge of Zimbabwe when they were surprisingly ousted from the COSAFA Castle Cup last year, beaten 4-1 in their final pool match by Namibia after securing wins against Mauritius and Seychelles earlier in the competition.
Waiting in the quarterfinals on that occasion too were Zambia, who ended up losing on penalties to eventual champions Namibia.
Click here to apply for media accreditation to the COSAFA Castle Cup 2016 in Namibia.