WARRIORS assistant coach Saul Chaminuka says his Cosafa squad is weighed down heavily by high expectations from the nation who are hoping they will emulate their predecessors’ achievements.
BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe reached the final of the competition when it was last played two years ago, falling 2-0 to hosts Zambia at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola.
The competition was suspended last year before its return this year. It will kick off in the North West Province, South Africa, tomorrow.
Chaminuka led a 20-men squad out of the country yesterday morning ahead of Zimbabwe’s first match against Mauritius tomorrow afternoon.
Kickoff is 1715hrs and the match will be live on SuperSport 4, SuperSport 4 Africa and 9 channels.
The Warriors will then take on Namibia on Thursday before their final group match against the Seychelles.
The former ZPC Kariba coach will take charge of the team in this tournament in the absence of coach Kalisto Pasuwa who remained behind to prepare the Young Warriors who have an assignment against Swaziland in the Under-23 Championships.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport shortly before flying out yesterday morning, Chaminuka said his inexperienced side would be under pressure to outdo their predecessors.
“It’s only natural that they would want to perform better than what the team did in Zambia,” Chaminuka said.
“The supporters would obviously expect more from the team after what happened the last time. We have spoken about it and they (players) know what we also expect from them. They will be representing the nation and we expect them to make us all proud.
“I think the team is ready and should be able to go all the way and win it. I have been given the responsibility to lead this team and I feel honoured. It’s a huge responsibility, but I think I’m ready.”
Warriors captain Danny Phiri acknowledged that he was leading a group of greenhorns, but still sounded very positive.
Phiri is one of the few experienced players including Ronald Chitiyo — the only one who has survived from the team that went to Zambia, vice-captain Hardlife Zvirekwi, George Chigova, Raphael Manuvire, Thomas Magorimbo and Patson Jaure — most of them who featured for the Warriors at the Chan championships in South Africa last year.
“I think it’s a good thing that the team is made up of youngsters who are eager to make a name for themselves. We will be there to guide them and stabilise the team,” Phiri said.
“I think the team is well balanced and I have told them that we should support and play for each other. If we can do that, I don’t think we will fail. We are going there to win the tournament and I believe that this group is capable of doing that. We have received a lot of support going into the tournament and on behalf of the players, I should take this opportunity to thank everyone who has supported us. I think the onus is now on us to give back,” the Chicken Inn midfielder added.
Ahead of the competition, the organisers yesterday released the tournament’s statistics on games won and it’s Zimbabwe leading the way with 28 wins from their 42 games and just six games lost in that time as well.
They are also the top-scorers with 68 goals, five ahead of second-placed Zambia.
The two neighbouring countries have won four championships each, with South Africa and Angola the only other tournament winners with three titles each to their name.
George Chigova, Bernard Donovan, Tatenda Munditi, Patson Jaure, Douglas Sibanda, Raphael Kawondera, Justice Jangano, Carlos Rusere, Thomas Magorimbo, Danny Phiri, Livingstone Genti, Tichaona Chipunza, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Raphael Manuvire, Moses Demera, Marshall Mudewe, Talent Chawapiwa, Ronald Chitiyo, Evans Rusike, Pritchard Mphelele.