For Zimbabwe, Rio 2016 will be their first appearance on a global footballing stage, having previously always fallen short in the qualification competition for the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament. They secured a convincing 6-1 victory against Guinea in their first match on the road to China PR 2008, but were then knocked out by regional rival South Africa, who managed to win both legs – 3-2 and 2-1. They failed to enter the qualifying tournament for London in 2012.
The road to Rio was everything but smooth for the southern African team. After receiving a bye into the second round, they lost their first match 2-1 in Zambia, but a 1-0 victory at home saw them advance on the away-goal rule. They then failed to travel to Côte d'Ivoire for the first leg in the third round and were thrown out of the competition. An appeal saw them reinstated, but before the matches could be played, Côte d'Ivoire withdrew and Zimbabwe went through to the final round. There they faced formidable opposition in Cameroon. A strong display in Yaounde saw Zimbabwe restrict Cameroon to a 2-1 victory, with Rudo Neshamba grabbing the away goal. In the return leg the striker proved to be the match-winner as she scored the only goal of the game – giving Zimbabwe a place at the Olympics courtesy of a win again on away goals.
Shadreck Mlauzi was thrown into the deep end when he took over the Zimbabwe women's team just a few weeks to go before the Mighty Warriors took on Cameroon in a two-legged tie that was to decide which of the two sides was to go to Rio. He made history by becoming the first coach to take a Zimbabwean team to the Olympics. He started his coaching career with local clubs West Swallows and North Rovers. He has also been involved with a club called Inline Academy, which has produced a number of players that starred for the national side. He was given a car as a bonus for taking the team to Rio but had to bring a driver when he picked it up as he does not have a license.
Rudo Neshamba, Felistas Muzongondi, Chidi Dzingirai
2 – The number of games that Zimbabwe won en route to Rio. It is also the number of goals that Zimbabwe conceded and scored in each of the two-legged ties they played. Both times they won on the away-goal rule after both of their home-and-away encounters ended 2-2 on aggregate.