Zimbabwe’s Afcon journey starts

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Ian Gorowa

THE Warriors started trooping into camp last night as they start preparations for the first round, first leg of the 2015 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) football qualifier away to Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Sunday.

SPORTS CORRESPONDENT

Team manager Shariff Mussa said training would start this morning.

“We are expecting all players in camp tonight (last night). We will have a clearer picture of who has come and who has not later tonight (yesterday),” he said yesterday.

Warriors coach Ian Gorowa has named a 22-man squad for the show down against the Taifa Stars with the heroes of the African Nations Championship tournament, where Zimbabwe finished a credible fourth, making the biggest number.

The Warriors gaffer has included 16 home-based players including new faces such as the Dynamos pair of Stephen Alimenda and Sidney Linyama.

The pair was travelling to Harare yesterday after their league match against Shabanie Mine in Zvishavane.

Bantu Rovers’ Nqobile Masuku, who was in Hwange, and FC Platinum’s Marshal Mudewe, coming from Mutare, also earned their first call-up to the national team.

The Highlanders trio of goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya, defender Milton Ncube and midfielder Peter Moyo remained in Harare after playing their league match against ZPC Kariba on Sunday while Hwange defender Eric Chipeta was expected to travel to Harare last night.

Dynamos players Partson Jaure, Linyama, Alimenda and goalkeeper George Chigova were also expected to join camp last night after travelling from Zvishavane.

From South Africa, Gorowa has called up the Kaizer Chiefs duo of midfielder Willard Katsande and Kingston Nkatha, Mamelodi Sundowns championship-winning striker Cuthbert Malajila, Ajax Cape Town frontman Simba Sithole and Mpumalanga Black Aces hitman Tendai Ndoro.

The Warriors will start training today before making the trip to Dar es Salaam on Friday. The technical team is expected to trim the squad to the final 18 before departure.

The second leg has been set for Harare between May 30 and June 2 with the winner of the two-legged encounter facing either Sudan or Mozambique in the next round.

Tanzania — just like the Warriors — will also be without some of their regular stars after Fifa ruled that the first round qualifying matches fall outside the Fifa dates for international matches.

The Taifa Stars are certain to miss two of their prolific strikers — Thomas Ulimwengu and Mbwana Samatta, who play for TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo — who have been ruled out of both legs owing to their club’s duties that coincide with Stars’ assignment.

With winger Mrisho Ngassa a doubt for the preliminary round, this leaves new Stars head coach Mart Nooij needing to plug the missing links. The Taifa Stars are still smarting from a 3-0 humiliation at the hands of Burundi and a drab 0-0 draw against Malawi.

The Warriors have not played a friendly match as they go into battle against Tanzania after failing to secure a game.

Should the Warriors beat Tanzania, they will book a place in Group F, which has neigbours Zambia, Cape Verde and Niger.

The Warriors last made an appearance in the 2006 Afcon finals and fell at the last hurdle to Cape Verde Islands and Angola in 2012 and 2013.

Sunday Chidzambwa was the first coach to take the Warriors to the Afcon finals in 2004 while Charles Mhlauri finished off a campaign that had been started by Rahman Gumbo to take Zimbabwe to Egypt two years later.

The new Zifa Board is hard-pressed to ensure the Warriors’ qualification and with the spat between Gorowa and Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze over, it’s time to deliver on the field of play.

Gorowa, after interfacing with members of the board Tawengwa Hara, Miriam Sibanda and Bernard Gwarada, has agreed to stay in charge beyond 2015.

Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa and Zifa president Cuthbert Dube have also assured the Warriors of adequate finances for the campaign.

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