BY HENRY MHARA
THE Warriors technical team has continued to put on a brave face despite facing a possibility of missing most of its Europe-based stars for the two decisive Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers later this month.
Team manager Wellington Mupandare yesterday said he was confident that they stand a better chance of grinding good results even without the Europe-based stars.
Zimbabwe travel to Botswana on March 25 for their penultimate Group H qualifier before concluding their qualification campaign with a home match against Zambia four days later.
However, the team is likely to miss some of its stars, particularly those based in Europe because of the tough COVID-19 regulations put in place by the United Kingdom.
Already, Warriors’ poster boy Tino Kadewere, who plays for Lyon in France, and Marvelous Nakamba of Aston Villa in England have both been blocked by their teams from travelling for the two fixtures.
Another regular, Tendayi Darikwa, also based in England, will not be available.
In fact, all the United Kingdom-based stars that were named in the 38-man provisional squad announced last week might not be able to travel for the matches due to the COVID-19 regulations, according to Mupandare.
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While Mupandare painted a bleak picture on the availability of players, he remained confident that they could still get the results to claim the remaining slot to the finals from their pool.
He felt that even without some of the Europe-based stars, the team was still strong enough and should be able to brush off Botswana and Zambia.
“The situation we are faced with is very bad concerning most of our Europe-based stars. I don’t think those in the UK will be able to travel for the two matches,” Mupandare said.
“With all due respect to Botswana and Zambia, I think we have better players than them. They are also likely to fail to secure their Europe-based stars. I don’t see their local-based players as better than our players that play in South Africa. We should have enough arsenal to get the results we want,” he added.
There are injury concerns to some of the squad regulars, which compounds the Warriors’ situation ahead of the two matches, where they will be looking to get at least four points to secure a ticket to the Afcon finals in Cameroon next year.
Forward Khama Billiat is recovering from a broken leg, while Tanzania-based Prince Dube limped off a league match on Saturday after just 27 minutes. Winger Kuda Mahachi is also down with an injury and there is no fixed date for his return.
“I spoke to Prince and he said he felt some pain in his hamstring during the match. But he told me yesterday that the pain is gone. He has been given a rest by the team doctors, which should be good news for us. Khama is recovering well, and should be okay for the match,” Mupandare said.
There are also fears that Marshal Munetsi, who plays in France, might not be released by his club Reims. The club is yet to confirm his availability. Zimbabwe also has players that are based in Turkey, whose availability is yet to be confirmed.
The good news is that Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, who plays in Belgium, has confirmed that he will be available for the two crucial matches. His club KAS Eupen has assured Zifa that it will release him.
United States-based Tatenda Mukuruva and Tendai Jirira are also likely to make the trip home for the matches. Zimbabwe are on second place in Group H with five points, behind log leaders and already qualified Algeria, who have 10 points.
With the top two teams from each group set to qualify to the Afcon finals to be played in Cameroon in January next year, 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 bottom of the group with three.
Warriors provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Talbert Shumba (Nkana), Tatenda Mukuruva (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)