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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 13:12 GMT
'Nearly men' finally make it
Nickname: The Warriors
Coach: Sunday Marimo
Captain: Peter Ndlovu
Cup record: First appearance
Zimbabwe are the masters of glorious failure, with a football history based on near misses and hollow victories after the real prize has been lost.

Such is the country's reputation for spectacular collapse in the qualifying stages, it has taken them 23 years to finally bury the 'nearly men' tag and qualify for their first Cup of Nations.

The Warriors sneaked in through the back door after picking up the best-placed runners-up ticket and they will do well not to finish bottom of their group in the finals.

Locally-based players make up more than half of the squad for Tunisia 2004, while the others play in South Africa and Europe's lower divisions.


Did you know? Peter Ndlovu is the longest-serving African professional in English football. He was first signed by Coventry City in 1991 and now plays for Sheffield United.


Coach

Sunday Marimo
Sunday Marimo made history for Zimbabwe
Although Tunisia 2004 represents his first shot at the major prize in African football, Sunday Marimo holds the distinction of succeeding where others before him have failed.

And qualifying the Warriors for their first ever finals was an achievement made all the more remarkable by the fact that it came against a backdrop of administrative chaos and severe financial difficulties.

Marimo, who took over as coach in May 2002, is well respected by the players and adored by the public.

Key players

Kaitano Tembo is the team's vice-captain and a tower of strength in defence. The South Africa-based central defender has excelled since being recalled to the Warriors by Marimo.

Zimbabwe's chances of progressing beyond the group stage could hinge on whether the 33-year-old can deal with the threat posed by some of Africa's deadliest strikers.

Strength in depth remains a real problem for the Warriors, which is why they are something of a one-man team centred around Peter Ndlovu.

Zimbabwe are simply not the same team without him, in terms of both his individual contribution and inspiration he brings to team-mates.

Peter Ndlovu inspires team-mates
Peter Ndlovu inspires team-mates
As captain of the side, the 30-year-old is constantly urging on the younger players and motivating the team to lift their heads when things do not go their way.

As he was playing football in the rural areas just over three years ago, Energy Murambadoro's wildest dreams would not have depicted him appearing at Tunisia 2004.

But his ability between the posts will surely be under intense scrutiny when he comes up against the likes of Ahmed 'Mido' Hossam and Samuel Eto'o Fils.


Verdict

Zimbabwe are in a tough group, so there will be little shame if, as expected, they finish bottom.

Marimo sees reaching the quarter-finals as the benchmark of success, but does anyone else really expect them to do much in this Cup of Nations apart from turn up?

Unlike their politicians, though, the Warriors are unlikely to blame the British government if they fail!



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