The Battle of the Limpopo is on tonight as Zimbabwe Warriors face neighbours South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in an international friendly match at Rufaro Stadium. Kick-off is 8pm.
Both teams go into the match on the back of failure to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in their last qualifying matches.
The Warriors lost 2-1 to the Cape Verde Islands while South Africa drew 0-0 with Sierra Leone at home.
Zimbabwe have dropped captain Method Mwanjali for today’s tie and the replacement will only be known before the match. Tafadzwa Rusike has been ruled out due to injury.
Coach Norman Mapeza said he was expecting a tough match.
“We must not look at the fact that they failed to qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals like us. It will still be an interesting game. South Africa has been playing well of late,” he said.
The Warriors had a training session at Rufaro yesterday morning with all called up players reporting for duty.
Mapeza is not expected to make changes in the starting line with regular goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini, right-back Gilbert Mapemba, central defenders Thomas Sweswe and Daniel Vheremu and left-back Vusa Nyoni starting.
If he decides to reshuffle — which he was not at liberty to discuss yesterday — Vheremu will be dropped to make way for Tapiwa Khumbuyani on the right with Mapemba coming into central defence.
In midfield, Tinashe Nengomasha, Ovidy Karuru, Willard Katsande and Khama Billiat will line up with Knowledge Musona and Nyasha Mushekwi being the two strikers in a 4-4-2 formation.
And these are some of the players worrying Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane.
“Karuru is unbelievable. Vheremu is a good defender. Musona, as well as Nyasha, is good. They are playing good football and Nyasha is scoring regularly for Sundowns.
“They have a number of other players who are in the starting line-up who play in South Africa and they are very good — otherwise why would they be in the starting line-up?” he said.
“I have a lot of respect for Zimbabwe. They beat Liberia 3-0 and they beat Zambia 2-0, so we will be cautious although we expect a very interesting game.”
Mosimane will miss Kagisho Dikgacoi, Tsepo Masilela, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Steven Pienaar, Anele Ngcongca, Siboniso Gaxa, Siyabonga Sangweni and Reneilwe Letsholonyane, who all played in the 1-1 draw against Ivory Coast in the Nelson Mandela Challenge on Saturday.
This gives Mosimane an opportunity to use new players for the game as he seeks solutions to his goalscoring drought.
For the number one spot, Orlando Pirates’ Moeneeb Josephs will battle it out with Wayne Sandilands of Mamelodi Sundowns while upfront, Jomo Cosmos hitman Siyabonga Nontshinga and Supersport United’s Kermit Erasmus will battle for the starting spots.
Teko Modise — who made his name at Pirates before joining Sundowns — is the man to watch in midfield with the likes of Oupa Manyisa, Daylon Claasen, George Lebese and Thanduyise Khuboni.
“It is an opportunity to see other players in action and see if they could have an opportunity to go into the main squad. We have the 2013 Afcon finals that we are hosting and the World Cup qualifiers in June, so there is lot of work that we need to do because there is not enough time,” Mosimane said during a pre-match conference yesterday.
Meanwhile, Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Tshabalala told his club’s official website yesterday tonight’s friendly will unearth a goal scorer capable of taking the pressure off Mphela.
“It is a concern for us really. At this point in time only ‘Killer’ (Katlego Mphela) seems to be scoring and we cannot rely on only one player to score goals. We all have to come to the party. We need to take our chances if we are to be counted among the best,” said Tshabalala.
“The coach wants to continue looking at different combinations and on Tuesday (today) other guys will get an opportunity to play,” added Tshabalala.