Zimbabwe midfielder Ovidy Karuru believes South Africa will be the Warriors’ ‘toughest’ opponent in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers, while dismissing Ghana from providing a stern challenge in the same group.
Group G of the road to Qatar contains Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia with the qualifiers having been initially scheduled to kick off in September 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
It is the Zimbabwe-South Africa home and away fixtures, dubbed ‘The Battle of Limpopo’, which are eagerly anticipated by Stellenbosch midfielder Karuru in this group.
“We have been waiting to play Bafana Bafana,” Karuru told Cosafa TV. “We always want to play against South Africa, because when we are here [in the Premier Soccer League] at our clubs, we always talk about it.
“We have missed the Battle of Limpopo,” he added. “I think that one is going to be out toughest game, because South Africa do not want to lose against Zimbabwe and we do not want to lose to South Africa.
“When it comes to Ghana and the other team [Ethiopia], I think we just have to go there and come out with a result, then we take them on in the reverse fixture at our home ground.”
History favours Zimbabwe, who have won seven matches, while Bafana Bafana have recorded six wins, with two games between the neighbours ending in draws.
It is now seven years since the rivals last met when the Warriors edged South Africa 2-1 in an international friendly match at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in September 2013, with Knowledge Musona and Cuthbert Malajila scoring for the visitors, while Bernard Parker pulled one goal back for Bafana.
In the Battle of Limpopo, Peter Ndlovu and Musona are the highest scorers with three goals each, while Delron Buckley and Lucas Thwala follow with each having struck twice.
In this group, only Ghana and South Africa have featured at the World Cup before, while Zimbabwe and Ethiopia are seeking their maiden qualification.
Karuru, who has previously played for French Ligue 1 side US Boulogne, has vowed that the Warriors won’t be on the losing side when they face their near neighbours.
“Against South Africa, there is no home, there is no away for us especially guys playing here in South Africa,” he added. “It’s going to be a tough one. All I can promise is that I don’t see us losing that game.”
The last time the two neighbours met in a World Cup qualifier, South Africa edged Zimbabwe 2-1 at FNB Stadium in May 2001 and Bafana Bafana proceeded to the 2002 tournament in Korea/Japan.
The first leg of that qualifying campaign ended disastrously in July 2000 after 13 fans perished at Harare’s National Sports Stadium in a stampede and the match was abandoned with eight minutes to go as the visitors led 2-0 courtesy of a Buckley brace.