The Warriors get into battle this afternoon against the Zebras of Botswana at the UB Stadium determined to prove a point to coach Norman Mapeza after the withdrawal of the entire foreign contingent.
The match kicks off at 4pm. The Warriors arrived yesterday morning at 2am after a long journey from Harare that began on Thursday morning.
The Department of Immigration welcomed the Zimbabwe delegation at the Plumtree Border Post and escorted them to the Botswana side.
They were then given a police escort up to Gaborone.
They are staying at the plush Gaborone Sun Hotel where their opponents, the Zebras are also housed.
They had a feel of the match venue at 4pm yesterday in soaring temperatures averaging 38 degrees Celsius.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA) has raised gate charges from the normal P50 to P150 — something which might keep the fans at home, although the buzz about the game is evident everywhere.
Given this opportunity to fight for places ahead of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) and the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, the locally-based players have no option but to drive the Warriors to victory in the first international of the year.
Perhaps this could help wipe out a disastrous 2011 which saw the Warriors fail to beat the Cape Verde Islands at home and away resulting in their failure to qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals which kicks off in two weeks’ time in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
The Warriors also failed to reach the Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge final in Tanzania in December last year.
The Warriors though, are expected to be a competitive outfit this afternoon given that a number of players in the team have international experience and recently took part in the Cecafa games.
Dynamos goalkeeper and Footballer of the Year Washington Arubi will guard the sticks with Tapiwa Khumbuyani and Under-23 skipper Qadr Amini occupying the wing-backs. Daniel Vheremu and Guthrie Zhokinyi will play as centre-backs.
FC Platinum’s Charles Sibanda could be thrust on the left-attacking wing with Denver Mukamba on the right, while Cuthbert Malajila and Rodreck Mutuma could be the twin strikers if Mapeza opts for a 4-4-2 formation. Milton Makopa may play anchor with Cliff Sekete filling in the gap behind the strikers.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said: “This is their chance to impress the coach. There is nothing to fear in the game and if anything, the boys must just deliver a win tomorrow (today).
“The use of local players also gives the coach a wide selection base for the next games. The players are geared for the match.”
The Zebras beat Lesotho 3-0 in a friendly game on Wednesday December 21 2011 in Rustenburg, South Africa, with Jerome Ramatlhakwane scoring a double and the third coming from Pontsho Moloi.
Their national team was named the African Team of the Year 2011 for their impressive work in the Afcon qualifiers that earned them a debut appearance in this month’s finals.
The Zebras were nominated alongside Ivory Coast, Libya, Niger and Tunisia in the Confederation of African Footballs (Caf) National Team of the Year award.
The award ceremony that took place in Ghana, Accra, saw Niger’s Harouna Doula grab the Coach of the Year award for which coach Stanley Tshosane was also nominated.
Tshosane’s charges arrived in Gaborone on Thursday and are expecting a tough match which will gauge their strength ahead of the Afcon finals.
The last meeting between the two teams was in 2009 in the semi-finals of the Cosafa Senior Challenge at Barbourfields where the Warriors won 2-0.
The second largest town in Botswana, Francistown — 79km from Plumtree — was yesterday awash with news of the game and everywhere it was all black and blue — the colours of the national team.
The BFA has adopted a plan to have all national team supporters wear national team colours every Friday.
On arrival late yesterday, this reporter witnessed similar trends in the capital as supporters prepared for the game at the 8 000-seater UB Stadium.
Washington Arubi, Tapiwa Khumbuyani, Daniel Vheremu, Guthrie Zhokinyi, Qadr Amini, Milton Makopa, Cliff Sekete, Charles Sibanda, Denver Mukamba, Cuthbert Malajila, Rodreck Mutuma.