The Young Warriors go to war this afternoon when they take on Zambia in the first leg of the 2011 All-Africa Games qualifier at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka hoping to get an away win.
The second leg takes place at Rufaro Stadium at the end of the month.
An away win will set the tone for the Young Warriors to march into the second round of the qualifiers where they would meet either South Africa or Angola.
Speaking on arrival in Lusaka, assistant coach Darlington Dodo said his charges were in Lusaka to secure qualification to the All- Africa Games set for Maputo in September.
“We have confidence, that is why we are here to beat Zambia. We have a lot of respect for them, they beat us in the Cosafa Under-20 Cup but we have picked up some lessons from that loss,” he said.
Zimbabwe last made an impact in the 1995 games which they hosted, reaching the final and eventually losing 3-1 to Egypt at the National Sports Stadium.
In 1995, Zimbabwe had the best players on offer — including Peter Ndlovu, Agent Sawu, Alois Bunjira, Stewart Murisa, George Mbwando, Chamu Musanhu, Methembe Ndlovu, Vusi Leher and Nelson Bandura among others, but now, it has taken a generation to produce the next best group.
Since then, they have failed to qualify for successive finals in South Africa in 1999, Abuja in 2003 and Algeria in 2007, as previous Zifa boards ignored junior development.
Now coach Friday Phiri has to break that jinx with relatively untested players in African competitions, save for the few who took part in the Cosafa Under-20 championships in Botswana last month.
Denver Mukamba, who scored four goals and helped take the Zimbabwe Under-20 side to the semi-finals at the recent Cosafa Under-20 Championship, is available.
Joel Ngodzo was expected yesterday in Lusaka from South Africa where he is on trials with Premiership side Vasco da Gama.
Zambia on their part will also include a number of players from the Under-20 side who beat Zimbabwe in the semi-final.
Coach Lucky Msiska said while they will not underrate Zimbabwe, they were confident of winning.
“Morale in camp is very high, players are enthusiastic and we are confident of beating Zimbabwe,” he told the Lusaka Times.
The coach will also decide this morning on whether to start Swiss-based striker Fwayo Tembo who was en route to Lusaka last night. Msiska said Fwayo of FC Basel was currently in transit to Lusaka and was expected to arrive at 21:00hrs last night.
“I will personally go to the airport to pick him up and we will then assess tomorrow morning (this morning) whether he will start or not but I can assure you he is coming and on the way,” Msiska told the Lusaka Times.
Goalkeepers: Arial 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)