BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS coach Zdravko Logarušic did not spring many surprises to the squad he announced yesterday for the two Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifiers next month, opting to retain the bulk of players who did duty against Algeria at the end of last year.
Zimbabwe travels to Botswana on March 25 in the penultimate qualifier where a win could earn them a ticket to the 2022 Afcon finals set for Cameroon next January.
They then wrap-up their qualification campaign at home against Zambia four days later.
Logarušic yesterday named a bloated provisional squad of 38 players for the two decisive matches, with all the players that faced Algeria in November last year, except for goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, called up.
The only major inclusion in the squad is former Everton defender Brendan Galloway, who has previously snubbed call-ups to the Warriors.
The 24-year-old Luton Town leftback, who is also eligible to play for England, has since reportedly sworn his allegiance to Zimbabwe.
It was not clear yesterday whether he and other England-based Warriors stars will be able to travel for the two qualifiers because of the tough COVID-19 regulations that has been enforced by the British government on travellers.
The United Kingdom has red-listed 33 countries which they deem high-risk areas in terms of coronavirus variants, and Zimbabwe is among them.
The British authorities want all those returning from the red-listed countries to be quarantined for 10 days at an airport hotel on their return.
Most clubs have said they are not comfortable with this arrangement as that would mean that their players will miss some league matches during the quarantine period. Fifa have said clubs are not be obliged to release players.
Other players that are set to be affected because of the enforcements are regulars Marvelous Nakamba, Tendai Darikwa, Jordan Zemura, David Moyo and the returning Admiral Muskwe.
United States of America and Spain are also enforcing the same protocols and that put goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva and defender Tendai Jirira’s availability for the two clashes in doubt.
The duo was also called for the matches against Algeria in November last year, but could not leave the US.
Another goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, who is based in Spain and looking to make his first senior team appearance, could also fail to travel to Harare.
On a positive note, star midfielder Marshall Munetsi returns to the fold after missing the back-to-back clashes against the African champions due to an injury. He has since recovered and has been a regular for his French Ligue 1 side Stade Reims.
Evans Rusike, Thabani Kamusoko and Knox Mtizwa are other notable returnees, and so is Leicester forward Muskwe on loan at Wycombe Wanderers.
Logarušic has rewarded those who did well at the African Nations Championships tournament in January with the likes of King Nadolo, Farau Matare, Carlos Mavhurume, Shadreck Nyahwa, Tatenda Tavengwa and goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda all getting call-ups.
Zambia-based Tanaka Chinyahara and Romario Matova who play in Croatia’s second division will also be hoping to get their first senior national team caps after they also received their first invite.
Logarušic justified naming a bloated squad saying this has been influenced by uncertainty over the availability of some key players due to injuries and COVID-19 regulations in different parts of the globe.
“Usually, our list of players should be made up of 28 players, that is three goalkeepers and 25 infield players,” Logarušic explained.
“We made it much bigger because we are facing a few [potential] problems. We don’t know what [the situation] will be in England, Spain and USA because some clubs have declined to release players because of the COVID-19 policies there.”
There are also some injury worries to some of his regulars including captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
“We have problems with some injured regular players whom we used in our games against Algeria, especially Khama [Billiat], [Marshall] Munetsi and [Knowledge] Musona. We have more than 10 players whose availability is in doubt. We have to call up more players in case some test positive for COVID-19 in camp. We will select a team for the game against Botswana, leaving some players in the country in case we lose some players before the game against Zambia.”
Zimbabwe are second in Group H with five points, behind log leaders and already-qualified Algeria who have 10 points. With the group’s top two teams qualifying to the Afcon finals, the Warriors will book their place if they beat Botswana and Zambia fail to beat Algeria on the same day.
Botswana have four points while Zambia are on three.
Warriors provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Talbert Shumba (Nkana), Tatenda Mkuruva (Michigan Stars), Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Martin Mapisa (Zamora CF)
Defenders: Jordan Zemura (AFC Bournemouth), Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana), Alec Mudimu (Ankaraspor), Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor), Divine Lunga (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Tendai Jirira (Detroit City), Tendayi Darikwa (Wigan Athletic), Brendan Galloway (Luton Town), Victor Kamhuka (Royal Malaysia Police), Romario Matova (NK Solin), Peter Muduwa (Simba SC), Carlos Mavhurume (Caps United), Shadreck Nyahwa (Bulawayo Chiefs)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims), Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Butholezwe Ncube (AmaZulu), Ovidy Karuru (Black Leopards), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Tafadzwa Rusike (Zesco United), Brian Banda (FC Platinum) King Nadolo (Dynamos), Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United), Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United), Knowledge Musona (KAS Eupen), Tatenda Tavengwa (Harare City), Tanaka Chinyahara (Red Arrows)
Strikers: Terrence Dzvukamanja (Orlando Pirates), Tinotenda Kadewere (Olympique Lyonnais), David Moyo (Hamilton Academical), Admiral Muskwe (Wycombe Wanderers), Farau Matare (Bulawayo Chiefs), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Prince Dube (Azam)
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