Striker Benjani Mwaruwari is close to winning a fitness battle ahead of the Warriors’ 2012 Africa Cup of Nations soccer qualifier against the Cape Verde Islands this Sunday.
Up to Friday last week, the Zimbabwe captain was struggling with a hamstring problem, but played the last 15 minutes of his side Blackburn Rovers’ 1-0 loss to Stoke City in the English Premiership on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium.
He replaced Emerson.
Benjani missed the opening 1-1 tie against Liberia in Monrovia after being dropped by then caretaker coach Norman Mapeza. Mapeza, who still remains in the technical team as an assistant with Madinda Ndlovu, has been replaced by Belgian Tom Sainfiet who is yet to get a work permit.
He is likely to watch the game from the terraces.
After being dropped, Benjani was quoted as having said: “I am surprised with my exclusion. If I am not mistaken, all South Africa-based players who have been called have not been playing because their league had not yet commenced, so who has been playing?
“There are a number of players that have been called for national duty who have not been playing because their leagues have not started,” Mwaruwari was quoted as having said.
Warriors manager Sharif Mussa said the Rovers striker was expected, together with other foreign-based players by end of day today at the earliest, or tomorrow.
“Benjani should be in by tomorrow (today) or Tuesday tomorrow. Some players could be delayed by flight connections as well.
“Costa (Nhamoinesu) should be in tomorrow (today), while the other player from Poland Clemence Matawu must be in on Tuesday (tomorrow).”
Matawu played an hour on Friday in the Polish Ekstraklasa for his side Polonia Bytom against Widzew Lodz where they drew 2-2 at home, while Nhamoinesu featured for the whole game for Zaglebie Lubin against Cracovia Krakow which ended goalless.
South Africa-based players – Esrom Nyandoro, who skippers Mamelodi Sundowns and his teammates Nyasha Mushekwi and Method Mwanjali – are expected today with Kaizer Chiefs’ Tinashe Nengomasha, Knowledge Musona and Thomas Sweswe.
Nyandoro had indicated he would not make the trip due to personal commitments but was convinced by Mussa to join up with his teammates. He also missed the trip to Liberia last month.
The Cyprus-based duo of Noel Kaseke and Obadiah Tarumbwa, with one goal in four matches this season, are also expected tonight.
Goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro, France-based Ovidy Karuru and Poland-based Dickson Choto have pulled out of the match due to injuries.
The technical team will have 26 players in camp before trimming the squad to 18 for the match.
Onisimo Bhasera, missing from the Liberia match, is also expected in to compete for the left-back position with Nhamoinesu and Jambo.
From the local players, Hwange goalkeeper Timothy Sibanda checked into camp on Saturday after his side’s league match against Douglas Warriors which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Caps United’s Edmore Sibanda and Gilbert Mapemba were in camp last night while Dynamos’ Benjamin Marere, Washington Arubi and Ashley Rambanapasi were expected last night after their Zaoga Golden Jubilee semi-final against Gunners yesterday.
The Warriors need maximum points from the match to go into the break at the top of the standings. Cape Verde Islands lead the standings with three points after stunning Mali 1-0 in the opening qualifier while Liberia and Zimbabwe both have one.
Should the Warriors win, they will top the standings with four points ahead of the next qualifier against Mali in March next year.
Cape Verde arrive on Friday for the tie from Portugal, where their start their camp today, according to visaonews.com.