After close to two years away from the national team, Knowledge Musona returns to shoulder hopes of Zimbabwe in the visit to Malawi for this afternoon’s 2017 Africa Cup of Nation (Afcon) qualifier Group L tie at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre, Malawi.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
With on-fire Sweden-based forward Nyasha Mushekwi injured, expectations for goals are mostly pinned on Musona who missed the bid for the last edition of Afcon following an ankle sprain sustained while turning out for former club Kaizer Chiefs of South Africa.
Last featuring for the Warriors in the 2-1 international friendly match win over South Africa in September 2013 in which he scored, the KV Oostende striker is interestingly the only Warrior to have scored away in nine Afcon and World Cup qualifiers in the past five years where he has laced in four goals.
While on the sidelines last year, Musona witnessed Zimbabwe get embarrassed by little Tanzania and fail to qualify for the Afcon finals that were hosted by Equatorial Guinea earlier this year.
“It is a great feeling coming back into the national team. It has been a long time since I played in this team, so I am looking forward to the game on Saturday,” Musona said on Thursday.
“You get angry sometimes when your teammates fail to qualify for Afcon, but that is football because it can also happen when I am on the pitch. You cannot control anything, but just remain positive and support the guys who would be playing. Now I am back and I will do my best to help the team.”
Zimbabwe arrive in Blantyre with history appearing to swing against them, having last won an Afcon or World Cup qualifier away back in July 2004 when they humbled Rwanda 2-0 in Kigali, courtesy of goals from Tinashe Nengomasha and Peter Ndlovu.
Since then, the Warriors have succumbed 13 times and drawn on four occasions in enemy territory.
Piling on this sad reading are shoddy preparations that characterised their camp before they left for Malawi yesterday morning after having been involved in just three training sessions.
Interestingly, Warriors gaffer Kalisto Pasuwa has never won an international match away as a coach, including at club level.
Malawi, on the other hand, come into this match on the backdrop of settling for a Plate title at last month’s Cosafa Cup as well as a 2-1 international friendly match defeat by Egypt on Monday.
The Flames appear a side on the rise after humbling continental powerhouses Mali 2-0 at Kamuzu last November with veteran Esau Kanyenda grabbing one of the goals.
Kanyenda is likely to start for The Flames today.
While conceding they will not have it easy against Malawi, Musona believes they are in good standing to grab three points.
“We expect a tough match in Malawi because they are not a bad team. They played well at the Cosafa Cup and I think they will be coming at us since they are at home and need a good result. We also need a positive result and we just have to try our best,” he said.
“It is important for us to be tactically disciplined and help each other as a team. We will try to attack as much as we can because the best way to defend is to attack. We will see how it goes in the first few minutes and then adapt to our tactics and try to control the game while looking for some goals and then defend.
“Some of us know each other having played together before in the national team as well as at club level. The days we trained are not enough for the team to gel, but it is all about teamwork. We are going to try as much as we can.”
The Warriors’ last visit to Kamuzu for an Afcon qualifier was back in October 2006 for the bid to qualify for Ghana 2008 and The Flames triumphed 1-0 against a Warriors squad that boasted the likes of Benjani Mwaruwari, Gilbert Mushangazhike and Shingi Kawondera.
Kuda Mahachi, Silas Songani, Erick Chipeta and Partson Jaure are familiar with Kamuzu Stadium, having toured Malawi for international friendlies in the past two years for a 1-1 draw in 2013 and a 4-1 win last year in which Mahachi was one of the scorers.
With the crop of players at Pasuwa’s disposal, Musona believes the Warriors can qualify for Afcon despite preparation problems in a group that also includes Guinea and Swaziland, who were due to play last night.
“I think the first game is the one which determines how it is going to be like ahead. We have a good team for the future with young players and some guys with experience. We just have to try and stay positive every time we play. It is important to try and forget everything that is happening around us but focus on playing some good football,” Musona said.