NATIONAL Under-23 football team coach Tonderai Ndiraya will try to coax the best out of his players when they take on South Africa in an Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations first leg qualifier at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, this evening.
BY HENRY MHARA
The match kicks off at 7pm.
Ndiraya travelled with a squad comprised mainly of local players, and wants them to make full use of the opportunity to market themselves outside the country.
Only five players in the final 18 squad play their football outside the country, and he also feels that the foreign-based crew can too use the chance to be spotted by other bigger clubs abroad.
“This match will obviously generate a lot of interest and there is no doubt that clubs in South Africa will come to watch the teams play in search of new talent. I have told the boys that this is an opportunity for them to be seen and earn some contracts in South Africa and overseas,” Ndiraya said.
The Under-23 national team mentor has picked what on paper looks like a formidable side that includes a number of regulars in the Premier Soccer League, among them Highlanders striker Prince Dube, as well as the Dynamos duo of Emmanuel Jalayi and Tawanda Chisi.
Caps United’s Blessing Sarupinda and Leeroy Mavunga, who has previously played for the senior national team, are also in the mix.
Chicken Inn’s Obriel Chirinda has been in top form for his club and would be expected to transfer that to the national team.
The foreign-based crew includes Spain-based duo of goalkeeper Martin Mapisa and Abubakar Moffat, former Dynamos leftback Romario Matova, Gilbert Nyaupembe and Munashe Garan’anga.
Seith Patrick, who warmed the hearts of supporters with a polished performance against Mozambique at the National Sports Stadium in the last round, has not been called up because he is currently unattached.
Ndiraya admitted he has a strong squad capable of beating South Africa in this tie, but bemoaned lack of adequate preparations, which he said could prove to be the difference between the two neighbouring countries.
While the locally-based players camped for just two days and only joined their foreign-based counterparts in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening, the South Africans have been together for some time now.
South Africa prepared their team by playing in the Cosafa tournament and the Africa Nations Championships qualifier, where they badly fared though.
But Ndiraya remains optimistic.
“We want to win. We prepare for every match with the intent of winning. But I know we are playing a very strong team that prepared well. We needed more time to prepare. We would have loved to play one or two friendly matches but that was not to be, so we will have to do with what we have,” he said.
The South African team captain, Tercious Malepe, admitted that the two-legged matches were not going to be easy.
“We have a huge task that is ahead of us,” Malepe told the local media.
“However, what is most pleasing is that we have a majority of the players who featured in our 6-1 aggregate win against Angola, except for the few who could not form part of this camp due to injuries. Everybody looks very sharp and the boys are just driven to push for a winning result in both two leg matches.”
The return leg is set for Barbourfields Stadium on Tuesday.
If Zimbabwe manage to progress past South Africa, they would qualify to the Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations to be played in Egypt this November.
Eight teams will participate at the biannual tournament, with the best three finishers booking their place at the 2020 Olympic Games set for Tokyo, Japan.