South Africa’s 5-1 hammering of Benin in an Olympic football games qualifier on Sunday has Zimbabwe’s Young Warriors worried ahead of their first leg, final qualifying round of the All-Africa Games this Saturday.
The South Africans overturned a 3-1 deficit to record an astonishing victory at the Rand Stadium in a match watched by Young Warriors coach Friday Phiri.
The All-Africa Games qualifier is the final ticket to the finals in Maputo, Mozambique, and a clash between the Limpopo neighbours is always worth the day.
The Young Warriors resumed training yesterday afternoon at Gwanzura Stadium without Warriors winger Khama Billiat after his South African club Ajax Cape Town pulled him out of the team on Sunday. Already, the team is without Kaizer Chiefs’ Knowledge Musona who was also pulled out last week.
Ajax chief executive officer George Comitis said they had withdrawn Billiat but had given the Young Warriors the go-ahead to use their other player Tafadzwa Rusike for the match that falls outside the Fifa calendar.
“Firstly, we didn’t get notification from Zimbabwe that they needed to use both Khama (Billiat) and Paul (Rusike) for the Under-23 matches. No official word was ever communicated to us from their side and we were only informed by the players’ agent that the boys were needed in the Under-23 squad.
“I then advised them that only Paul (Rusike) can go and play but with Khama (Billiat) it’s a no. After all the football that he has played this past season the kid needs to rest. With Paul, he didn’t play as much as Khama, so he can go ahead and play because he needs that game time. Khama is a senior national team player after all,” Comitis told Kick Off on Monday.
But the Young Warriors are buoyed by the presence of three internationals, Tafadzwa Rusike of Ajax, Mathew Rusike of Jomo Cosmos in SA and English championship club striker Trevor Mutero.
Speaking on SA’s win over Benin, team manager Wellington Mpandare said: “In a way it shows they can score goals at home. Remember, the last time they played Malawi, they scored four goals.
“So it’s not going to be an easy match for us. The other advantage they have is that they have been playing together since Chan and have been playing in the Olympic qualifiers, so they have played more games than us. If we had also been playing in the Olympic qualifiers, it could have been better. But we need to go out there with a positive mind to get a result.”