BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
WARRIORS coach Joey Antipas yesterday presided over the team’s first training session ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Botswana on Friday and was impressed by the quality that he has got in camp, but warned that the Zebras will pose a big challenge for Zimbabwe.
Antipas’ mind has been torn between focusing on the Warriors’ cause and his domestic topflight league club Chicken Inn’s league match against Mushowani.
Chicken Inn are chasing the league title and Antipas will travel with them to Bindura this afternoon to preside over their match before returning to rejoin camp.
What has been encouraging is that Antipas feels he has got good quality in camp and the group of players at his disposal have been warming up to his demands with ease.
Zimbabwe kickstart their Group H campaign with a match against Botswana at the National Sports Stadium on Friday before they take on Zambia in their next match on Tuesday away from home.
“It’s a great group with quality players. You don’t have to constantly break down training to give them instructions. It makes it easier for the coach and all you have to do is to implement your game plan,” Antipas said.
The Warriors gaffer has put together some of the best players that the countries has, despite a few pulling out due to injuries and other reasons.
But while he was purring at the quality that he is working with for the two important matches, he warned that Botswana, the lowest ranked in a pool that also contains Algeria, were not to be underrated as their current crop has played together for a long time.
“One thing we must never do is to underestimate them (Botswana). They are very difficult opponents. They have got a few foreign-based players but the core of their team has always been playing together for years. We have to get into the match and give hundred percent,” he added.
The coach, however, trained without England-based midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, skipper Knowledge Musona who plays his club football in Belgium as well as defender Teenage Hadebe who plies his trade in Turkey.
While Hadebe was expected to arrive last night, Nakamba and Musona are set to arrive tonight for the clash.
Antipas had planned to field Charlton Athletic striker Maccauley Bonne against Zambia which would have been his first competitive match after he secured his passport to become eligible to play for Zimbabwe. However, the forward announced he would not be able to feature for the Warriors on medical grounds.
Big defender Cliff Moyo who also plays in England but in the lower divisions could be given his first cap for the Warriors.
The Warriors are hoping to make it to the Cameroon finals where they expect to make up for this years’ disappointment after exiting the African Cup of Nations in Egypt in the group stages with only a point from the 1-1 draw against Uganda.
These will be the last two matches that Antipas will preside on before Zifa appoint a substantive coach, which they promised they would do in January.
Antipas wants to leave the job with the Warriors’ campaign in a healthy state and he will be targeting maximum points in the two matches.