The Zimbabwe Under-23 soccer team left for Zambia for the crucial All-Africa Games Zone VI first round qualifier Wednesday, but without coach Friday Phiri.
The team left for Lusaka by road. The Young Warriors are playing their northern neighbours on Saturday afternoon, with the reverse fixture pencilled for Harare two weeks later.
Phiri, a Malawian national, failed to travel with the rest of the team as he was still sorting out his travel documents.
By yesterday afternoon, the Eagles gaffer was still bogged down at the Home Affairs department trying to secure an emergency travel document.
He is expected to join the rest of the squad today.
The Young Warriors’ preparation for the all-important match has not been ideal, with problems besieging the camp the first day the team trooped into camp and the latest setback is likely to worsen the situation.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare admitted that the latest “little blip” can affect the team’s preparations for the high-profile encounter but said he is confident the team will prevail in Zambia.
“We had expected that he (Phiri) will get all his documents in order before we leave but that is not the case,” said Mpandare shortly before the bus left for Zambia.
“That will obviously affect the team spirit, we would have wanted to travel as a team and I am sure he will join us by tomorrow (today). We have been training with the team for a long time now and that little blip cannot destroy all the hard work that we have done in the past two weeks. I want to believe the technical team has prepared the team well and players understand each other now,” added Mpandare.
Mpandare was confident that the team will achieve positive results. “You can see for yourself, the team is rich in talent, all these players are playing in the Premiership, they will not be intimidated by anyone,” said the team manager. Captain Qadr Amini, although admitting that the preparation for the match was not thorough, said he is confident they would win.
“We had problems but they were very small really and I don’t think they will affect the team performance that much,” said the Gunners left back. “As I have been saying the team is very focused, and if we can keep the same spirit during the match I don’t see any reason why we should fail to beat Zambia.”
Denver Mukamba, the exciting Dynamos midfielder who was part of the Under 20 squad that was booted out of the Metropolitan Cosafa Under-20 by their Zambian counterparts in November last year, said revenge would be foremost in their minds.
“This is a different stage and a different ball game altogether,” said Mukamba who was the second highest goalscorer at the tournament. They beat us last year but that should give us motivation.
The Zambians are a good side but we won’t allow them to bully us, we will give them a good fight,” added the 19-year-old attacking midfielder.
Archieford Gutu, one of big name in the
18-man squad, also added his voice and was optimistic the team would attain positive results.
“We are going to win the match, we are expecting nothing short of victory in Zambia,” said Gutu.
Goalkeepers: Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Liberty Chirava (Bantu Rovers)
Defenders: Blessing Sande (Hwange), Qadr Amini (Gunners), Knowledge Machona (Eagles), Lincoln Zvasiya (Monomotapa), Charles Mutero (Shooting Stars)
Midfielders: Timire Mamvura, Archieford Gutu, Devon Chafa (Dynamos), Rahman Kutsanzira (Highlanders), Tapiwa Mangezi (Gunners), Abbas Amidu (Black Mambas), Brian Katsaruware (Eagles),
Strikers: Simba Sithole (Shooting Stars), Malvern Dumbura (Eagles), Mathew Rusike (Pretoria University), Denver Mukamba (Dynamos).