By HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS goalkeeper Washington Arubi yesterday said he was not worried about the absence of the team’s regular defenders for the opening World Cup home qualifier against South Africa tomorrow as he believes those that are available are good enough to do the job.
The home side will troop into the National Sports Stadium with a depleted squad after at least nine foreign-based players failed to travel for the match for different reasons.
It was the defence department which was badly affected by the withdrawals as the regular central defence pair of Teenage Hadebe and Jimmy Dzingai are both unavailable and so is rightback Tendayi Darikwa.
Other defenders Jordan Zemura, who is enjoying his best form at Bournemouth and former Everton star Brendan Galloway, who was set to make his debut for the Warriors, are also out.
The situation got worse yesterday when FC Platinum defender William Stima, who had arrived as a replacement also pulled out together with Silas Songani to focus on their club’s Caf Champions League commitments.
Coach Zdravko Logarušić has admitted that the absence of his regular defenders is giving him sleepless nights. The team’s fans are equally worried.
However, Arubi, who is making his return to the team for a competitive match in five years, is wearing a brave face.
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“People are talking about those that are not available and it’s a sad situation for them and for us. But there is nothing much that we can do. We need to focus on those that are here and try to encourage them. I have been watching those that are available and I think they are ready. Some of them have represented the team before and they have experience playing at this level. I’m 120% confident that they can deliver. I just hope that they will take this opportunity with both hands and play well,” Arubi said.
Without some of the regular defenders, Logarušić is expected to experiment with Alec Mudimu and Onismor Bhasera at the heart of defence with the returning Devine Lunga and Takudzwa Chimwemwe as fullbacks.
“We will work hard to defend and attack as a team. I expect everyone to play his part in defending when the situation requires. It’s not as if those that are playing in forward positions will not help to defend, so I think we will be fine.”
The veteran goalkeeper, who had a standout season last year which has been rewarded with a national team call-up, is expected to be named in the starting line-up ahead of Talbert Shumba and young Martin Mapisa.
“I feel honoured and excited to be back. It’s been long away from the national team but such is life. The good thing is I’m back and enjoying my life again. I feel that I belong here with the team and I want to thank the coach for giving me this chance to represent my country, which is every player’s dream.”
South Africa has named an inexperienced squad for the match. They arrived in Harare yesterday without the duo of Thibang Phete and Thabiso Kutumela, who were dropped at the eleventh hour after testing positive for COVID-19.
Arubi believes the Bafana Bafana squad will be no match for the Warriors.
“South Africa has good players. There are not too different from us but we have experience and some special players in the squad which gives us an upper hand. Mentally and physically, we are stronger than them,” Arubi reckons.
He is targeting a winning start.
“The first game of a campaign, being qualifiers or at the tournament proper, is always difficult but we are prepared and looking forward to collecting the three points.”
After the South Africa match, the Warriors travel to Ethiopia for their second group qualifier on Tuesday.
- Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara