The Warriors face Zambia in an international football friendly tonight at Rufaro Stadium with one eye on the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier next month against Liberia.
The game kicks off at 7pm.
The Warriors face Liberia on September 4 at Rufaro before taking on the Cape Verde Islands the following month — two games that will determine if Zimbabwe qualifies for the Afcon 2012 finals.
The national team had a two-hour session at Rufaro yesterday morning and was due to train again in the evening around 8pm. This morning, the national team will work on set pieces.
Zambia, on the other hand, loosened up at Motor Action Sports Club before another session at Rufaro at 6pm.
Germany-based Knowledge Musona and the suspended pair of Thomas Sweswe and Nyasha Mushekwi and new Moroka Swallows signing Gilbert Mapemba, are out of the match.
Belgium-based Vusa Nyoni arrived at lunch and joined the rest of the team for the evening session.
Coach Norman Mapeza worked with 18 players — eight of them from the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League after Dynamos’ Archieford Gutu was called up.
“Everybody is looking sharp and I must say we are ready to play and win the game. We have to continue from where we left off against Mali and instill that winning culture in the team.
“There is always pressure in any game and worse because of our rise in the Fifa rankings. We are not relaxing at all; we are taking the game seriously and I know the Zambians are also serious about the match,” Mapeza said.
He added: “We have Thomas and Nyasha who are not in the team and we have to see how the new guys fit into the system.
“We thought it only wise to give Knowledge a chance to settle at his team and I also spoke to Gilbert’s coach (Gordon Igesund) who said they have a game this weekend and he needs his new player.
“We need to build relationships with these teams for the future.”
In the absence of Musona, Mapeza will bank on Al Hilal hitman Edward Sadomba and Mamelodi Sundowns’ new signing Simba Sithole, while Charles Sibanda and Benjamin Marere can also be used upfront when the need arises.
“The good thing here is that we have players who are capable of fitting into any position,” the coach said.
He said the Mali game in June had exposed his team’s reaction period and they were working on that.
“In the game against Mali we conceded a soft goal because we failed to recover in time after we had lost the ball in their half. We should have closed them down in their half.
“We were a little bit slow and so we are working on that for this match. Keeping ball possession is vital and you can do that by knocking the ball around . . . that helps in creating chances,” he said.
From yesterday’s session, AmaZulu goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini is likely to start in goal with Daniel Vheremu partnering skipper Method Mwanjali in central defence while Tapuwa Khumbuyani is likely to earn another cap in Warriors’ colours at right-back.
The left-back position will be a toss-up between Nyoni and Qadr Amini.
In midfield, Kaizer Chiefs “General” Tinashe Nengomasha and Willard Katsande could play in the centre with Ovidy Karuru and Khama Billiat on the left.
Here, the coach has a headache as Quincy Antipas is also fighting for a position in midfield together with Charles Sibanda. Sadomba and Sithole would then play upfront.
Mapeza was also impressed with the team’s levels of fitness.
“The players are looking very fit because most of them have been playing in pre-season friendlies. Khama and Mwanjali played well over the weekend while Vusa’s league in Belgium has also started.”
Chipolopolo are a more proven outfit than the Zimbabweans, but Mapeza’s team are in third place in their group and only two points behind leaders Cape Verde, with favourites Mali sandwiched in between the two.
Zambia, on the other hand, top their group with nine points, one more than rivals Libya. Given the importance of his side’s upcoming clash against Comoros, Copper Bullets coach Dario Bonetti is taking the test very seriously and has called up a full-strength outfit.
Orlando Pirates star Isaac Chansa is missing from the team due to injury while Felix Katongo has jetted out for trials in Israel.
Collins Mbesuma, Kennedy Mweene, Noah Chivuta, Joseph Musonda and Kampamba Chintu arrived from South Africa on Monday while the rest of the squad travelled by road from Zambia.
Goalkeepers: T Kapini, W Arubi
Defenders: M Mwanjali, D Vheremu, Q Amini, T Khumbuyani, L Zvasiya, V Nyoni
Midfielders: T Nengomasha, Q Antipas, W Katsande, K Billiat, O Karuru, C Sibanda, E Mudzingwa, B Marere, A Gutu
Strikers: E Sadomba, S Sithole