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Zimbabwe Warriors Coach Laments Lack Of Friendlies Before Mali Cup Qualifier

Mapeza said he asked the Zimbabwe Football Association to schedule international friendlies but a number of countries were not eager to play the Warriors for reasons that were not entirely clear

Zimbabwe Warriors Coach Norman Mapeza said Tuesday that he believes his team is up to the challenge of taking on Mali this weekend although the national soccer team has not been able to hone its play with international friendly matches.

Mali goes into the match with an advantage having defeated Zimbabwe 1- 0 in the first leg in Bamako. Zimbabwe must win or be disqualified from playing in the 2012 African Cup of Nations to be held in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Mapeza told VOA Studio7 reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye that team morale is high even though foreign based players Esrom Nyandoro and Noel Kaseke will not take the field on Sunday in Harare due to injuries.

Zimbabwe last played in the African Cup Of Nations in 2006 under coach Charles so fans are desperate to see the Warriors advance to the 2012 edition.

Mapeza said he asked the Zimbabwe Football Association to schedule friendlies for the national squad but was unsuccessful as a number of countries were reluctant to play against Zimbabwe because of its low FIFA rankings.

Others speculate that Zimbabwe image was tarnished by the Asian match-fixing scandal which led to the sacking of Henrietta Rushwaya, ZIFA's former chief executive.

Zimbabwe is currently ranked 126 in the world. In 1993 it stood in 46th place.

"My aim as a coach is to see that we qualify despite the challenges of not having any preparatory friendly matches," Mapeza said. "We are calling on our fans to come out in their thousands on Sunday to help us restore our pride" and make the 2012 cup.