BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS coach Joey Antipas has roped in more reinforcements as he bids to rescue the team’s World Cup campaign which currently hangs in the balance following a humiliating defeat to minnows Somalia last week.
Zimbabwe, the highest-ranked team in the 2022 World Cup preliminary round lost the first leg of the tie to the lowest-ranked side, is expected to win by two clear goals when the two teams clash in the second leg at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Kick-off is 3pm.
After recalling Ovidy Karuru back into the squad on Sunday, Antipas has also brought in talisman Khama Billiat for the make-or-break tie.
Zimbabwe were expected to roll over the Somalians, the lowest-ranked team in Africa, but after the surprise defeat, it appears Antipas has pressed the panic button and called in the big guns to rescue the situation.
“It is always best to have your top players available,” Antipas said.
“If you have your top players available, it gives the team more confidence. We are not underrating our opponents, and if you are not underrating them you have to come up with a full complement of players and these players are available, so it’s good for us.”
Billiat, who dropped from the initial squad that played last week because of an injury, was expected in the country yesterday afternoon to join the rest of the squad. He will not have time to train with the squad, but it appears he will be thrown straight into the first 11 today.
Karuru trained with the team yesterday in their final preparatory session at the match venue, and while he has not played regularly for his South African club Amazulu, he looked sharp and ready to deliver today.
Antipas was purring with Karuru’s performance at training, and believes the playmaker will prove to be the game changer this afternoon. The two have also worked together at Amazulu.
“In my eyes as the coach, Ovidy is a quality player technically and I believe in him. I know he can also motivate his teammates to come up with a good result. He is an experienced player, and sometimes you need that kind of experience and quality in a team. He is a player who is needed by the Warriors at the moment,” Antipas said.
But the coach’s main worry is complacency in the team, and ever since they returned home he has been emphasising to his players to guard against complacency.
Antipas said he will set his team to attack and try to get the needed goals, but is also preparing for a penalty shoot-out in the event his team wins 1-0.
“We have been working in all aspects of our game, and have also been working on all the eventualities that could happen tomorrow and that’s why we were trying some penalties at the end of the session today, just to make sure that we are prepared for everything.
“I just hope that the boys will not crack under pressure because one thing for sure is that the team is under pressure to perform and go to the group stages of the World Cup. As the coach, I have confidence with the players who are here and I believe that we will go through. I believe we can come up with a good performance and we have been imploring the boys to come up with a top show to proceed.
“There is no way we are underrating our opponents like what we did in the first leg. This time around we are more prepared, we have had a couple of training sessions and the players know how we want them to play which is much better than what happened in the first leg.”