The Warriors will go all out in search of a winning start in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations first leg football qualifier when they face Burundi at the Prince Louis Rwagasore Stadium in the capital Bujumbura today.
The match kicks off at 3:30pm.
Knowledge Musona was last night still expected to arrive from Germany together with Noel Kaseke from Cyprus to complete Rahman Gumbo’s 18-man squad for this crucial encounter.
Goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has been named the captain of the side. Hoffeinheim striker Musona scored against Liberia home and away, against Cape Verde away and against Mali in the 2012 Afcon qualifiers although the Warriors failed to make the cut and he remains Gumbo’s trump-card.
Conditions in Burundi have not been up to standard, but team manager Nyika Chifamba said the team was ready for the match.
“The mood in camp is very good and I can tell you that the youngsters are pumped up for the match. There is nothing we can do about the conditions here, but just to concentrate on the match,” he said.
The Warriors trained at the match venue yesterday afternoon where Chifamba confirmed that Musona and Kaseke were still to arrive due to some flight problems, but they remained hopeful.
He complained about the artificial pitch: “It’s not like ours, looks bumpy in the centre, but, well, what can you do? Pitches do not win matches but how you play.”
There is no doubt Gumbo will opt to attack to put the home team under pressure and Musona could start off with gangly Musa Mguni while Esrom Nyandoro and Tinashe Nengomasha will play cover in midfield.
Mguni last turned out for the Warriors in 2004 when Zimbabwe beat Rwanda 2-0 at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali. It was the same game that Nengomasha scored his first international goal with the first having come from legendary former skipper Peter Ndlovu.
Mguni, still searching for his first goal in national colours, turns out for Terek Grozny in the cash-rich Russian Premier League and has scored twice from 20 appearances — the main thing being that he is in action every week. The league is on a winter break and resumes next weekend.
Onisimor Bhasera and Vusa Nyoni are likely to take the left wings with Tapiwa Khumbuyani and Archford Gutu operating from the right. At the back, Kaseke and Godfrey Moyo could form the central defensive partnership.
Bhasera is making a return to the national team after a long layoff due to injury. Burundi finished third in their group during the 2012 qualifiers, holding Benin to a 1-1 draw in Cotonou and narrowly losing 1-0 to continental giants Cote d’Ivoire.
They will bank on players like Valery Nahayo, formerly of Kaizer Chiefs, who is well known to Nyandoro, former teammate Nengomasha and Kapini.
He plays for Gent in the Belgian league and will have Nyoni to deal with again.
From Belgium, there is also Musaba Selemani who plays for Standard Liege, Kassim Bizimana from Sneek and Omar Mussa from Wilrijk. From Poland comes Saidi Ntibanzoka, who plays for Cracovia in the top flight.
Zimbabwe: Knowledge Musona, Tinashe Nengomasha, Musa Mguni, Vusa Nyoni, Tapuwa Kapini
Burundi: Valery Nahayo, Kassim Bizimana, Omar Mussa, Musaba Selemani