Zimbabwe’s Young Warriors trooped into camp Monday afternoon ahead of the All-Africa games qualifiers clash against Young Chipolopolo of Zambia early next month.
The first leg of the qualifiers will be played in Lusaka on January 8 while the reverse fixture is scheduled for Harare two weeks later.
Zimbabwe has named a relatively strong squad for the match and will be expected to brush off the Zambians who have in the past proved to be a bogey side for the Warriors, both at junior and senior levels.
The Zambians Under 20 side has defeated their Zimbabwean counterparts twice in the Cosafa Under 20 tournament in the last two editions and will be looking to continue with their dominance over their southern neighbours.
However, under 23 team manager Wellington Mpandare is optimistic that the team will prevail over the Young Chipolopolo side.
“The Zambians have been our bogey side but we have named a very experienced squad for the tie and will be looking at nothing short of all the three points.All the players in the squad save for one play their football in the Premier League and there will be no excuse if we lose this game, we have to win it at all cost.”
George Chigova, the Under 20 first choice goalie, who plays for the famed Aces Youth Academy is the only player in the squad who does not play premier football.
Mupandare reckons that this will be one of the most difficult games for his team and if they can leap the Zambia hurdle, they will be in with a good chance of qualifying for the next stage of the qualifiers.
“This is one of the most difficult games in the qualifiers. As I have said, Zambians have proved to be our difficult opponents in the past and if we can get a positive result in Zambia then we will have a good chance of qualifying for the next round,” added Mupandare.
The team manager was also hopeful that the foreign-based quartet that include the influential striker Knowledge Musona of Kaizer Chiefs will make it to Zambia.
Ovidy Karuru, who plays for French Ligue 2 side Boulogne is another big name included in the 32 man squad while the Ajax Cape Town duo of Tafadzwa Rusike and Khama Billiart were also expected in camp on Monday.
“They haven’t confirmed that they will not be joining camp. I have sent letters to both Kaizer Chiefs and Ajax Cape Town requesting the services of the players and I’m waiting for the feedback but unfortunately the Zifa offices are closed today. The same goes for Karuru but I understand all these players are in the country and we will see what happens by the end of day.”
Other foreign-based players in the squad are Darryl Nyandoro of TP Mazembe and Mathew Rusike of Pretoria University.
Mupandare, however admitted that because the All-Africa games qualifiers are not on the Fifa calendar it will be difficult for the technical team to force the clubs to release the players in the event the teams refused to budge.
The South African and French leagues, which are on Christmas break at the moment resumes on the same weekend of the qualifiers, and their coaches, will understandably be reluctant to release the four players who have become integral in their teams.
Goalkeepers: Aerial Sibanda (Highlanders), George Chigova (Aces Youth Academy), Liberty Chirava (Bantu Rovers), Maxwell Nyamupangedengu (Kiglon Bird)
Defenders: Lincoln Zvasiya (Monomotapa), Knowledge Machona (Eagles), Edwin Nkomo (Bantu Rovers), Qadr Amini (Gunners), Passmore Bernard (Motor Action), Khumbulani Banda (Dynamos), Obey Mwerahari (Eagles)
Midfielders: Rahman Kutsanzira, Joel Ngodzo (Highlanders), Cliff Sekete (Gunners), Amidu Hussein, Isaac Madziva (Black Mambas), Denver Mukamba (Kiglon), Timire Mamvura, Archieford Gutu ( Dynamos), Ovidy Karuru (Boulogne, France), Khama Billiart, Tafadzwa Rusike (Ajax Cape Town, SA), Brian Mapfumo (Monomotapa), Tapiwa Mangezi (Gunners), Tsepo Ratholkwane (Eagles)
Strikers: Malvern Dumbura (Eagles), Tawanda Ushe (Motor Action), Knowledge Musona (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Darryl Nyandoro (TP Mazembe, DRC), Mathew Rusike (Pretoria University, SA), Osbourne Mukuradare (Monomotapa), Simba Sithole (Shooting Stars)