Zimbabwe Under-23 and Jomo Cosmos striker Matthew Rusike jetted into the country yesterday ahead of the crucial second leg of the Zone VI All-Africa Games soccer qualifier against Zambia at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
The Young Warriors, who trooped into camp last Sunday, carry a healthy 3 – 2 lead going into the encounter, are hot favourites to progress to the first round where they will meet the winner between South Africa and Angola.
Simba Sithole and midfielder Denver Mukamba scored the three vital goals in Lusaka last Saturday that virtually put the hosts in the driving seat.
The Young Warriors technical team led by coach Friday Phiri has retained the bulk of the players that did duty in Zambia but also added another eight players.
Joel Ngodzo, Artwell Mukandi, George Chigova, Obey Mwerahari, Charles Mukanhairi, Russel Madamombe, Stephen Matsangaise and Blessing Chimwamuchere are the latest additions.
Motor Action defender Passmore Bernard, who could not travel to Zambia because he does not have a passport, has been released by his team for the game and will have to fill the void left by Knowledge Machona who lost his father yesterday.
The inclusion of Rusike in the squad will certainly boost the team ahead of the do-or-die clash. He is the only foreign-based player in the squad and was part of the 18-man team that travelled to Zambia but was not given game time.
“He arrived yesterday evening (Monday) and joined the rest of the squad today. He trained with the other guys and everything is going on well in camp,” said team manager Wellington Mpandare.
Phiri has said he is no longer desperate to add the South Africa-based trio of Knowledge Musona, Tafadzwa Rusike and Karma Billiart for the encounter and will only need their services as the competition progresses.
Mpandare said all the players were working extra hard at training.
“We called in the other players who could not travel to Zambia because of different reasons. That means the competition for jerseys has increased as everyone wants to be in the final 18 squad.”
Mpandare also has high regard for Ngodzo who he said is a fine player and can add a new dimension to a side already oozing with quality.
“Joel is a quality player, he has been doing well at training with the national team, and if he can continue to work hard he will be a good addition to the team.
But he has no automatic ticket into the team, he has to fight like any other player in camp, no one has a permanent jersey in the team” added Mpandare.
Ngodzo, one of the most exciting prospects to have emerged on the local scene in recent times, could not travel to Zambia as he was on trials with South African Premiership side Vasco Da Gama.
Key players who are excepted to carry the day for the Young Warriors on Sunday include captain Qadr Amin, Mukamba, Devon Chafa, Archieford Gutu, Timire Mamvura, Rahman Kutsanzira and the highly-rated Sithole.