ZIMBABWE’S build-up to this weekend’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Congo Brazzaville has been dominated by so many negativities, with injuries and withdrawals to key players, but Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga and the team’s fans finally received some rare positive news yesterday after hitman Nyasha Mushekwi confirmed his availability for the crucial match.
BY HENRY MHARA
The China-based star has been a major doubt for the Sunday Group G match away at the Massamba Debate Stadium in Brazzaville.
A fortnight ago, the Warriors technical team announced that the 30-year-old had a nagging injury which required surgery.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare yesterday said the forward confirmed his availability and is expected in Harare today to join the rest of the squad in camp to prepare for the match.
He is one of the three players expected to arrive today, together with United States-based striker Lucky Mkhosana and Alec Mudimu, who plays in Wales.
“I have been in constant contact with him (Mushekwi), he is coming. He has left his base and was initially scheduled to arrive today (yesterday), but had problems with his connecting flight so we now expect him tomorrow (today),” Mupandare said.
More encouraging news in the Warriors camp is that Khama Billiat, who is burdened with a hamstring problem, reported for camp and has showed his willingness to play in the match.
The forward aggravated a hamstring injury while playing for his South African club Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday, and had been ruled out of the Congo Brazzaville tie.
But Mupandare yesterday said Billiat, was part of the South African-based Warriors contingent that arrived in the country yesterday morning for camp.
“He is in pain, but wants to play so he has asked to give it a try. He will be assessed tomorrow to determine if he is able to train,” Mupandare said.
All the South Africa-based players called in, save for Danny Phiri, Devine Lunga, Knox Mutizwa and Eric Chipeta, who were expected later in the evening, had already jetted in by afternoon to join the locally-based stars.
Tanzania-based midfielder Tafadzwa Kutinyu arrived in the country at the weekend.
Skipper Knowledge Musona was also expected in Harare last night from his base in Belgium.
But it is Mushekwi’s availability and the arrival of Billiat which should be a huge relief to Chidzambga, whose squad had been ravaged by injuries to key players and withdrawals.
Belgium-based Marvelous Nakamba, Costa Nhamoinesu of Sparta Praha in Czech Republic and Amazulu’s Ovidy Karuru have all been struck off the provisional squad due to injuries.
Winger Leeroy Mavunga withdrew from the squad last week to go for trials with Portuguese league side Clube Desportivo Feirense.
British-born Zimbabweans Tendayi Darikwa and Adam Chicksen, and Germany-based Kelly Lunga, who were also included in the squad, have also been ruled out after Zifa failed to secure them passports.
Tinotenda Chibharo, who is based in Serbia, is also out of the match after picking an injury at the weekend, to further decimate the squad. Training starts today, with the team expected to depart for Brazzaville on Friday.
Zimbabwe currently top Group G with three points, but on goal difference, following their 3-0 win over Liberia in their opening qualifier.
The group also comprises the Democratic Republic of Congo who sit second after beating Congo Brazzaville 3-1 in their opening fixture of the campaign.
With two teams from the group qualifying for the Afcon finals next year, a win for Zimbabwe in Congo Brazzaville will enhance their chances of making it to Cameroon next year.
Warriors provisional squad
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane), Donovan Benard (Ngezi), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu)
Defenders: Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), , Alec Mudimu (Cefn Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Byron Madzokerere (Yadah)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Talent Chawapiwa (Baroka), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando), Lucky Mkosana (Penn FC), Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundwons)
Strikers: Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Evans Rusike (SuperSport), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang)