BY HENRY MHARA IN DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA
MIDFIELDERS Thabani Kamusoko (pictured) and Butholezwe Ncube might have earned themselves tickets to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals after good performances in Zimbabwe’s 2-0 win over Comoros in the quarterfinals of the Cosafa Cup in South Africa on Saturday.
Impeccable sources told NewsDay Sport that the dreadlocked Kamusoko, who was voted man of the match against Comoros, has secured his spot in the final 23-man squad, while Ncube is charming the technical team as well.
Goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze who had a dream season with Baroka in the South African topflight league has also been impressing at training, and could be picked ahead of Talbert Shumba for the third goalkeeper spot in the final squad.
Three goalkeepers will travel to the Afcon, and first choice goaltender George Chigova and Edmore Sibanda seem to have automatic places on the plane.
“Thabani did well and the coach was convinced he is the sort of player that he needs to add some steel in midfield. He will definitely be on the plane to Egypt,” said the source.
“Butholezwe is likely to be picked. He is a very good player, and Mhofu (Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga) likes his kind of play. He has one foot in, and so is Chipezeze. He is doing fantastic at training, and should be able to nudge Talbert out of the way.”
The trio did not participate in the Afcon qualifiers and are some of the few players likely to gatecrash their way into the travelling party.
Warriors assistant coach Rahman Gumbo confirmed that the bulk of the final 23-man squad are players that took part in the qualifiers.
“There is a squad that we have been working with from the beginning of the qualifiers, and to be honest it would be very unfair to drop somebody who has been there from the start unless there are injuries. But there are some players who have come in now and have given us some very good performances so much that they could be part of the Afcon squad,” said Gumbo.
Dr Rush, as Gumbo is affectionately known, will take charge of the Warriors in their Cosafa Cup semi-final clash against old enemies Zambia at the Moses Mabhida Stadium this evening.
Kick off is 7.30pm.
Chidzambga was forced to abort this tournament and return to Harare on Sunday following the passing on of his father back home.
Gumbo said more players will be given a chance against Zambia to stake a claim in the team to the Afcon.
England-based striker Admiral Muskwe is expected to be given his first start, an opportunity which he will have to use to have a chance to make it to Afcon.
“So far these games have given us a clear indication of who is going to be in the final 23, but that will depend on how we will finish the Cosafa tournament.”
The Warriors face Chipolopolo for the third time in a row in this Cosafa competition, having played a thrilling final in last year’s edition when Zimbabwe had to come from 2 goals down to win the match 4-2.
“We knew that we might come up against one of the strong teams in the semi-finals, and we wanted that because it’s good for us in terms of Afcon preparations. At the same time it would be nice to defend the Cosafa Cup. We want to give all the players a run around so that they get game time and you might probably see some new players featuring in the game against Zambia.
“Zambia have always been one of our biggest rivals, but in the past two years we have had a good run against them and we hope to continue with that good run.
“This match is important in that we have not had many friendly games, so there is pressure on the team to do the preparation and at the same time try to defend our title,” the coach said.
Striker Evans Rusike has been ruled out of today’s match due to an injury he picked in the Comoros game.
The big striker suffered a soft tissue contusion on the chest wall, and although the injury doesn’t look too serious, the Warriors technical team does not want to take chances.
Young Walter Musona is also down with an ankle injury, and is out of the Cosafa tournament.
Mhofu will pick 18 players to travel to Nigeria on Thursday for a friendly match against the Super Eagles on Saturday, while the other group will remain behind to finish the Cosafa tournament.