Zimbabwe matched their second biggest winning margin in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier as they surged to the top of Group L by trouncing Swaziland 4-0 on Monday. After an even first half in the matchday 4 top-of-the-table clash at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe took control as Swaziland tired three days after drawing at home to the same opposition.
By Tongai Mwenje
Knowledge Musona calmly converted a 53rd-minute penalty and Costa Nhamoinesu from Czech Republic club Sparta Prague nodded the second just before the hour. Goals from a couple of South Africa-based attackers who came off the bench, Evans Rusike and Khama Billiat, completed an unexpectedly easy triumph.
Victory for Zimbabwe followed five consecutive draws in a mini-league completed by Malawi and top seeds Guinea, who will both be desperate for three points when they meet in Blantyre Tuesday.
Zimbabwe have eight points, Swaziland five and Malawi and Guinea two each with only the group winners guaranteed a place at the 2017 Cup of Nations in Gabon. The Warriors’ biggest Cup of Nations qualifying victory was 5-0 against Seychelles and they beat Swaziland before, Eritrea and Malawi by four goals.
Swaziland, one of 16 countries never to feature at the biennial African tournament, suffered their third heaviest loss after 6-0 to Togo and 5-0 to Zambia. “What a wonderful day for the nation,” Belgium-based striker Musona told reporters. “We won convincingly and are top of the table. “Our objective now must be to secure maximum points when Malawi come to Harare during June. I believe our chances of reaching Gabon are good.”
Zimbabwe qualified for the African football showpiece in 2004 and 2006, winning once and losing twice in each tournament to make first-round exits.