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Mutasa rallies Young Warriors


ZIMBABWE Under-23 captain and FC Platinum midfielder Wisdom Mutasa believes experience gained in Slovakia, where he has been on a three-week trial, will come in handy as they face rivals South Africa in the first leg, final qualifier of the Caf Under-23 Championship at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.


Mutasa was trying his luck in Slovakia alongside teammate Walter Musona in the last three weeks and the pair only joined others at training late on Wednesday.

Speaking after the team’s training session yesterday morning, Mutasa, who has so far led Zimbabwe to the Congo, Brazzaville African Games after beating powerhouse Cameroon to the ticket, said they would use their experience in Slovakia to breakdown South Africa.

“It was a good learning experience. We played three international friendly matches during our trial period and we gained a lot.
The coaches were happy with our performance and now negotiations on a transfer are underway,” Mutasa said.

“Their game has a bias towards pace and if we can apply that against South Africa, I am confident we will get a good result.
This is a very important match because there will be scouts to look at other players who are looking for moves outside the country. But our primary objective is to get a result that we need first. We will treat the match like some of the matches we have played before in these qualifiers,” he said.

Coach Kalisto Pasuwa also lauded the pair for their fitness levels.

“The boys are looking sharp. Those trials have helped them. We have always been talking about fitness and they now have a better appreciation of what we have been saying. Kuda Mahachi is also looking sharp. He is leading the pack in terms of fitness levels and is happy to play. He has not been playing regularly for his club and is eager to make a statement,” Pasuwa said.

However, the Young Warriors coach was worried by the centre-back and left-back positions as Teenage Hadebe picked a knock, while Flame Lily’s left-back, Edwin Madhanaga, earmarked for the left-back position after Ronald Pfumbidzai — who has sealed a move to Denmark — withdrew, was also ruled out because of injury.

With Liberty Chakoroma also out of the match as he was still in South Africa on trials, it means Pasuwa will bank on Lawrence Mhlanga and Hadebe if he is certified fit at the centre of the defence and can deploy Pritchard Mpelele or Carlos Rusere to the left-back position.

“South Africa have a lot of movement in attack and I am bit worried by the central defence and left-back position. With Liberty Chakoroma still on trials and Madhanaga out due to injury we need to make changes in those positions,” Pasuwa said.

While Pasuwa expressed hope on the recovery of Hadebe, Nqobizitha Masuku and goalkeeper Chris Mverechena, he said Marshall Mudehwe, Jimmy Kanono, Tino Kadewera and Edwin Madhanaga were out of the match.

South Africa had a bye in the first round of the qualifiers, while the Young Warriors had to squeeze past Swaziland on the away goal’s rule after a 2-2 aggregate draw.

The winner between the two sides joins hosts Senegal and six other African countries at the African Under-23 Championships in Dakar, Senegal, in December which will serve as the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics.

The top three nations at the tournament will automatically qualify for the Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, the South African U23 national team has been cut down to 18 players and are set to travel to Harare this morning.

Coach Owen da Gama and his technical team are happy with the squad they have chosen and are confident the players have what it takes to make the nation proud.

“This team has what it takes to go all the way. Our vision for now is Rio 2016 Olympics. I don’t see why we should not achieve this goal,” Da Gama told the South African Football Association official website.

Keagan Dolly is disappointed with the absence of key players ahead of Sunday’s tie.

Da Gama will have to do without Menzi Masuku, Thapelo Morena and Phumlani Ntshangase for the first leg tie.

“Unfortunately, there are a few new players. Other players are still in pre-season and their teams didn’t allow them to come, so it’s a bit of setback,” Dolly told the South African media.

“It breaks our spirit because we start bonding and the next camp, new players come and then we have to start afresh. So it’s always saddening to go through that.”

The left-footed attacker thinks it will be crucial to show the same fighting spirit they displayed against Egypt in Durban last month, when they came back from a goal down to win 2-1 in an international friendly.

“It will be crucial because we haven’t been together for a long time. I think each and every one of us should bring our work rate to the table and if we work together, then nothing will stop us against Zimbabwe.”

SA squad

Goalkeepers: Ricardo Goss, Jody February

Defenders: Kwanda Mngonyama, Tshepo Rikhotso, Thabo Makhele, Zitha Macheke, Gino Moeketsi, Tebogo Moerane, Siyabonga Zulu

Midfielders: Abbubaker Mobara, Ayabulela Magqwaka, Motjeka Madisha, Keagan Dolly, Maphosa Modiba

Strikers: Simphiwe Kambule, Dumisani Zuma, Siphelele Ntshangase, Siphamandla Dlamini

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