Not long ago Zimbabwe were considered perennial underachievers in African football, a team that promised much but delivered little. But that was before they finally managed to break their jinx and qualify for the finals of the 2004 and 2006 CAF Africa Cup of Nations.
And now that they have achieved feat, they are going after an even bigger prize: a first-ever qualification for the finals of the FIFA World Cup ™.
The closest they came to previously qualifying for the showpiece of international football was for the USA 1994 edition, when they managed to knock out Egypt by holding the Pharaohs to a goalless draw in France after FIFA had ordered an earlier match to be replayed.
In the next round, the Warriors were grouped with Cameroon and Guinea and after Zimbabwe managed to beat the Indomitable Lions in Harare, football fans in the southern African country started dreaming of making it all the way to the United States. A 3-1 defeat in their last group game in Cameroon ended the dream though and since then, Zimbabwe have not come close again.
But with confidence boosted after qualifying for the Cup of Nations, Zimbabwe went into the African preliminary qualifying rounds for Germany 2006 believing in their ability against African football minnows Mauritania. Although a 3-0 victory in the first leg in Harare was followed by a 2-1 defeat in Mauritania, there was never any doubt about which team would be going through.
In the subsequent group phase, Zimbabwe managed to finish "best of the rest" - behind Angola and Nigeria - after four wins and three draws in their ten matches.
Zimbabwe do not have as many European-based professionals as many other African countries, with striker Benjani Mwaruwari the best-known player in their ranks and sure to be a one of their biggest hopes when qualifying for South Africa 2010 comes around. Their new coach is the Brazilian Jose Valinhos.