By Gerald Mutsvairo and Cloud Fusire

ZIMBABWE’s senior men’s soccer team, the Warriors, put on a brave show and came agonisingly close to earning a vital point against star-studded Senegal in Cameroon yesterday.

Until bad luck hit them at the end of the match, via a painful penalty in added time that was converted by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, the plucky Warriors had impressively put behind the chaos that threatened their participation at the biennial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament — comfortably holding the much-fancied Lions of Teranga.

Despite their defeat, the Warriors’ good showing ignited hope that they could qualify for the knock-out stages if they replicate their form against Malawi and Guinea.

Leading the praise for the spirited Warriors yesterday was former coach Joey Antipas, who was among those who said Zimbabwe had a chance of progressing further in the tournament.

“If the team continues with this performance, I am quite sure that we will win the next matches. The boys played very well. It was a good performance.

“They looked very sharp throughout the match. Unfortunately, we made a mistake in the dying minutes and a penalty was awarded against them.

“They should keep their heads up and continue with a positive attitude. Today (yesterday) was just unfortunate. We were unlucky,” Antipas said.

Former Warriors captain and coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa also praised his former charges for putting up “a near flawless perfomance” against Senegal.

“We played very well … against such a good side like Senegal, and to be honest, we didn’t deserve to lose this game. We were just unlucky.

“A fair result for us was supposed to be a draw. But this is in the nature of the game of football. Mistakes are common.

“I am very positive that if we maintain the way we played today (yesterday) against Malawi and Guinea, we can collect the maximum six points.

“The team just needs to remain positive and focused going forward,” Chidzambwa told the Daily News.

Former Warriors striker Alois Bunjira also said he was confident that Zimbabwe would qualify for the knock-out stage.

“The performance was good and we can take home a lot of positives going into the Malawi match.

“I am very positive that we will make it to the knockout stages if we maintain yesterday’s performances. We were just unfortunate,” Bunjira said.

The life president of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association, Eddie “Mboma” Nyatanga, said the Warriors needed to beat Malawi comprehensively in their next match to stand a chance of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the tournament.

“We played very well, but a loss is a loss. What coach Norman Mapeza has to do is to play with three strikers to beat Malawi with a big margin, so that we increase our chances of progressing to the next stage of the tournament,” he said. – Daily News