Zimbabwe's national soccer team, the Warriors, played to a scoreless tie with Mali in their Group Six match Sunday. This means Zimbabwe may still qualify for the African Cup of Nations in 2004 finals in Tunisia. But that depends not only on their next game, but also on what happens in the game between Mali and the Seychelles.
A first appearance at the showcase of African soccer beckons for Zimbabwe, but the team needs a big win in its final game against Eritrea at home to emerge top of their group and be sure of going to Tunisia.
After five games, Mali and Zimbabwe top their group's point standings. Both teams have lost a game each, but the Eagles, as the Malian national side is known, have scored more goals, giving them the lead.
Since independence 23 years ago, the Zimbabwean soccer team has failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations or the World Cup.
The soccer-crazy, but success-starved, nation was handed what many thought was an easy passage to Tunisia when they were drawn in the same group with relative lightweights Eritrea and the tiny Indian Ocean island of the Seychelles, with Mali completing the lineup.
Things looked even brighter when the Warriors beat both Mali and the Seychelles in Harare. But the islanders turned the tables by unexpectedly beating the Zimbabweans in Victoria three weeks ago.
Zimbabweans are praying that the Seychelles win or force a draw in their final game against Mali. Should Mali win, Zimbabwe must beat Eritrea by three goals more than Mali beat Seychelles to top the group and qualify automatically.
Should they win, but finish second due to an inferior goal difference, they can still qualify if they emerge as best runner-up of the teams in groups six and seven.
Zimbabweans must wait until July 6, when the final games are played, to celebrate their first appearance at the continental soccer showcase or mourn another failure to do so.