Deco upbeat


WARRIORS stand-in captain Danny Phiri is confident of upsetting the Comoros when they face off in the preliminary round, first leg of the African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifier at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.


Phiri is the captain of the locally-based squad and captained Zimbabwe at the Cosafa Cup in South Africa recently.

The Chicken Inn midfielder, who was also part of the squad that claimed a 2-1 victory over Malawi at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Saturday in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier, said he was ready to lead Zimbabwe to their fourth successive Chan appearance.

Chan is designed exclusively for home-based players and was inaugurated in 2009. The Warriors have made appearances in all competitions since then.

Deco, as Phiri is affectionately known, said although they had just three days to prepare for the match, they were looking to get off to a good start in their bid to qualify for the tournament.

“I am confident we can qualify again for the Chan tournament. There is pressure, of course, because we have qualified for this tournament since it started. It’s a very big game for us, but I believe we can get off to a good start and then finish the job in Comoros,” said Phiri after yesterday morning’s training session at Rufaro Stadium.

“I am confident we can rise to the task. We just have a few days of training, but if we put maximum effort, we can get a good result. I don’t know anything about the Comoros except that they are just an island.”

The Warriors, who missed two days of training as coach Kalisto Pasuwa was still to settle issues to do with his outstanding payments with his employers, finally held their first training session at Rufaro yesterday.

Pasuwa has kept faith in the Under-23 team that defied odds to beat Cameroon to a ticket to the All-Africa Games finals to be held in Congo Brazzaville in September.

Warriors in training in at Rufaro Stadium yesterday

The Young Warriors also defeated Swaziland on the away goal rule after they drew 2-2 in Swaziland having drawn 0-0 in Harare, to advance to the final qualifying round of the Under-23 African Championships.

Only three players — Ronald Chitiyo, Phiri and Justice Jangano — are over 23 years of age. Chicken Inn left-back Divine Lunga is the only new face in the team to face the Comoros.

The 20-year-old full-back, Lunga, expressed confidence in his first day of training with the national team and said he was delighted to be called to the Warriors.

“It’s a great feeling to be called to the national team. It’s my first time to be called up to the national team and am going to fight to get into the final squad,” said Lunga.

“I have been playing well at Chicken Inn where I have missed just two games this season. I will fight hard to get a place in the team. I am feeling confident with Phiri captaining the team. Apart from Phiri and Edmore Chirambadare — my teammates at Chicken Inn — I have made friends already and am now settled. All I want is to prove what I can offer. It’s a good opportunity for me.”

From the training session yesterday, the Chicken Inn full-back, coming in as a replacement for Ronald Pfumbidzai who is no longer eligible to play in the tournament after signing a one-year deal with Hobro IK, is a sure bet to make the cut with Blessing Moyo set to operate from the right wing back.

Towering defender Teenage Hadebe and Justice Jangano are likely to partner at the heart of the defence with Phiri and Gerald Takwara set to be deployed as twin anchormen while Wisdom Mutasa will play behind striker Chirambadare. Chitiyo and Marlven Gaki will play as wide midfielders.

The 25-member squad is set to be whittled to 18.

Meanwhile, the Comoros arrived in the country on Wednesday.

They are coming from a 2-0 away defeat to Burkina Faso in an Afcon qualifier at the weekend and will be seeking redemption as they face the Warriors.

Zimbabwe have done well at the tournament making it to the semi-finals of the 2014 edition held in South Africa before losing to eventual champions Libya, having qualified for the last two editions of the Chan tournament under different coaches.

In 2009, ZPC Kariba coach Sunday Chidzambwa took them to the Ivory Coast while Madinda Ndlovu led them in Sudan in 2011.

Warriors squad in training yesterday: T Mukuruva, Bernard Donovan, T Mawaya, B Moyo, J Jangano, T Hadebe, L Chakoroma, D Phiri, G Takwara, R Kawondera, J Kanono, N Masuku, W Mutasa, M Mudehwe, C Rusere, M Gaki, E Chirambadare, T Kadewere, T Chideu, P Mpelele, M Sibanda, E Rusike, D Lunga, E Mandiranga, R Chitiyo.