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Phiri worried by key players’ absence

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Zimbabwe’s Under-23 football coach Friday Phiri said he is disappointed that some of the best players he had selected for the upcoming All Africa Games qualifier against Young Chipolopolo of Zambia will not take part due to club commitments.

The Young Warriors face off with Young Chipolopolo of Zambia on January 8 in Lusaka while the reverse fixture is scheduled for Harare two weeks later.

Save for Jomo Cosmos-bound Mathew Rusike who joined camp on Monday afternoon and has confirmed he will take part in the qualifier, the other three foreign-based players who were named in the 32-man squad will not travel to Zambia.

Phiri and his technical team had tried to maximise the Christmas holidays by naming Kaizer Chiefs sensation Knowledge Musona, France-based Ovidy Karuru and the Ajax duo of Tafadzwa Rusike and Khama Billiart.
Phiri said he would have wanted to have the best crop of youngsters in the team for the important tie.

“I’m not underestimating the potential of other players in the camp, but I would have wanted all the best players on offer,” said Phiri.

“Every coach would have wanted to have those players (Musona, Karuru, Rusike, and Billiart) in his line up but unfortunately they are not around and we have to do with what is there.

Those are some of the best young players that the country has produced in recent years but the qualifiers are not on the Fifa calendar so we will have to respect their clubs’ decision,” added Phiri.

However, the coach was quick to point out that he has enough replacements for the foreign-based trio and their absence will not jeopardise the preparations for the crucial tie.

“We still have locally-based players in the squad whom I think can easily fill that void. Most of the players in camp have been playing Premier League football and I am sure they have enough experience to play at this level.”

Kiglon’s Devon Chafa, Raphael Madamombe of Monomotapa, Lengthens captain Stephen Matsangaise and Charles Mutero of Shooting Stars have been called up as replacements.

Phiri is also taking a very cautious approach against a “strong” Zambian side.

“Zambia is a very strong side and they will be playing at home but we are going to give them a good fight. We will take a cautious approach in Zambia, a draw will be a good result and a win will be a bonus for us,” said Phiri.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupangedengu, Brian Mapfumo and Khumbulani Banda have been dropped from the squad and Monomotapa’s Artwell Mukandi and Dynamos’ Prince Mbara have been roped in as replacements.

Also, Bantu Rovers duo of Liberty Chirava and Edwin Nkomo were not part of the squad that trained with the team on Wednesday, apparently because they were yet to be informed of their call up.

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