BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS coach Joey Antipas has trimmed his squad to 24 players, who will be in camp next week for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H matches against Botswana and Zambia.
Zimbabwe begins their qualification campaign with a home match against the Zebras of Botswana on Friday next week at the National Sports Stadium.
The match, which had initially been scheduled for Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo, before being moved to the capital due to logistical reasons, will kick-off at 6pm.
Antipas’ men will travel to Zambia for their second group match four days later. The group also has African champions Algeria, who Zimbabwe will face later in the campaign.
Top two teams will qualify for the Afcon finals set for Cameroon in 2021.
Thirty-two men had initially been called for camp which begins on Monday next week, but Zifa yesterday said only 24 will now group for the match.
“Only 24 players will report for camp for the two matches against Botswana and Zambia. The Warriors technical team is finalising the squad,” Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said.
He also gave the itinerary for the two matches: “Players are expected to start arriving in camp on Monday for the Friday match. The team will leave for Zambia on Sunday, the 17th for the match on Tuesday.”
The association has reduced the number of players coming to camp to try and reduce costs which include travelling, accommodation and allowances.
A source in the Warriors technical team said all the high-profile names, such as Knowledge Musona have been included in a squad to be announced before the end of this week.
“All the regulars, especially those who played at the Afcon in Egypt will make up the squad,” a source, who refused to be named, said.
Besides Musona, other big names that are set to make the list are Marvellous Nakamba, Ovidy Karuru, Tino Kadewere, Khama Billiat, Knox Mutizwa, Marshall Munetsi, Teenage Hadebe, Alec Mudimu, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Devine Lunga, Thabani Kamusoko and two goalkeepers Elvis Chipezeze and Simba Chinani.
Third choice goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, who is based in Spain, is doubtful and Antipas is likely to call another goalie.
England-based Macauley Bonne of Charlton Athletic and Bolton Wonderers’ Adam Chicksen will also make the squad as they are likely to get their Zimbabwean passports this week.
“All their application papers were submitted and we are now waiting for the Registrar General’s Office to issue them the passports,” Gwesela said.
There is also hope that Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura and Cliff Moyo will also get their passports in time for the two matches.
The major casualty could be Leicester City striker Admiral Muskwe, who is set to be dropped, alongside other players born or raised in Europe – Douglas Nyaupembe and Tivonge Rushesha, while Jonah Fabisch has already pulled out.
The local-based duo of Prince Dube and Patson Jaure are likely to be rewarded for their good performance in the African Nations Championships qualifiers with an inclusion in the Afcon squad.