BY HENRY MHARA
STAR midfielder Marshal Munetsi says he is happy to be back in the Warriors fold and expects to help his side get a “winning start” when they host South Africa in a World Cup opening qualifier at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
The match, which kicks off at 3pm, will be played behind closed doors because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Munetsi is returning to the Zimbabwe squad for the first time since September 2019 when he featured for the team in a World Cup preliminary qualifier against Somalia at home.
He scored the opening goal in that match which ended in a 3-1 win for the Warriors to progress to the group stage qualifiers.
COVID-19 travel restrictions meant that he missed the team’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign. Coach Zdravko Logarušic’s men still managed to clinch a ticket to the Afcon finals set for January next year.
While the former Orlando Pirates star and fellow France-based countryman Tino Kadewere were released by their clubs for the upcoming international matches, there was no joy for several UK-based Warriors players including regulars Marvelous Nakamba and Tendayi Darikwa who were barred by their clubs from travelling.
Munetsi says the available squad should favour those that could not make it by beating Bafana Bafana.
“I was not part of the last group that ensured that we qualified for the Afcon but those that were there did the job for us. We just want to return the favour,” Munetsi said.
“I have been speaking to some of them and they have been motivating me a lot. We just have to play for those that could not make it for this match. I know Marve (Nakamba) badly wanted to be here with us, and Tendayi has always been talking about this qualifying World Cup campaign, but unfortunately they could not be here with us.”
“Camp has been good seeing my fellow brothers, it’s been a while since I have been with the team. The mood is amazing everybody is looking forward to the game, so it’s good for us.”
Despite missing several players, Munetsi said the depleted Warriors squad is still good enough to shock South Africa.
“Every player in camp is good and I’m sure all the players that have been called by the coach deserve to be here.”
The 25-year-old will be meeting a lot of familiar faces in the Bafana Bafana squad, having spent four years playing in South Africa.
“That makes this battle so exciting. I spent a couple of years in South Africa and most of the guys I know them very well, so we always talk about this game. So it’s a kind of a derby match which we need to win for so many reasons,” Munetsi said.
He stressed the need to start the World Cup qualifying campaign on a positive note.
“It’s not going to be easy because we also have Ghana and Ethiopia in our group, two countries that have good players. These days football has evolved, you always try to win your home games and if you can manage to get a point away it will be amazing.”
The France-based defensive midfielder is currently basking in the global limelight after his showdown with superstar Lionel Messi at the weekend in a league match between PSG and Stade Reims.
The Warriors star, who had a blinder of a match against the star-studded PSG side, had a goal disallowed following VAR intervention. His side went on to lose the match 2-0, thanks to thanks to a double by Kylian Mbappe.
His name has been trending since marshalling Messi to become the first Zimbabwean to face the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Despite all the glowing tributes that has been coming his way, he is keeping his eyes on the ground.
“We are all the men of the moment and we are looking forward to the game as a team. It’s not just about one person and so we have to work together and try to get a positive result. What happens about me as an individual is something that I always try to input into the team and try to learn from the others who have been there before me, the likes of Knowledge (Musona) to try to get the experience that they have had throughout their careers.”
- Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara