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Africa Cup of Nations

Afcon 2021: Nobody gave Zimbabwe a chance against ‘quality’ Senegal – Mapeza

09:12 GMT 11/01/2022
Norman Mapeza coach of Zimbabwe.
The Warriors’ tactician praises his players after they stood toe to toe with the Lions of Teranga before a late penalty

Zimbabwe coach Norman Mapeza has praised his players for working their socks off despite falling 1-0 against “quality” Senegal in their Group B opener at the Africa Cup of Nations at Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium on Monday.

The Warriors, who are making their third consecutive Afcon appearance at the tournament in Cameroon, battled the Lions of Teranga with zeal and they were looking likely to snatch a vital point until a stoppage-time penalty converted by Liverpool winger Sadio Mane ended their fight.

“Credit goes to my boys. I think we played very well. Nobody gave us a chance against a quality team like Senegal. If you look at the names in their squad, most of their guys are playing for top European clubs,” Mapeza said as quoted by Zimbabwe FA.

“I think we had some moments where we controlled the game. Luck wasn’t on our side. Credit to my boys, I think they worked their socks off. Now we focus on our next game against Malawi.”

On what his team needs to work on ahead of their second match against Malawi, Mapeza said: “We are just going to work on our conversion rate. I think we did a lot in the final third where we had some good opportunities. We also had some opportunities on set pieces.

“I am proud of my boys. We worked so hard. Our minds are now on the game against Malawi where I think we need to give our all so that we can get maximum points because I think if we can manage to get four points we will get to the round of 16.

“That is where much of our focus will be against Malawi.”

On his team selection for the Senegal game, Mapeza explained: “It’s unfortunate we have a 23-man squad. I should give credit to those guys which I selected today [Monday].

“We have got guys who came from Europe and they only joined the squad with five days to go, but the rest of those guys [trained together] for about 10 days. So, I don't think I made any wrong decision in selecting those guys who started today. I think they did well.”

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s vice-captain Teenage Hadebe believes the Warriors were unlucky to lose to Senegal.

“We tried our best to get a result but it did not work out,” Hadebe told the Zimbabwe FA.

“I think we were unlucky in some moments, but I am proud of the team’s performance but we need to convert our chances in order to win games.”

The Warriors will return to action on Friday with a game against Malawi’s Flames while Senegal will come up against Guinea, who beat Malawi 1-0 in their opener.