By Kevin Mapasure
Warriors coach Norman Mapeza has admitted that they face a tough encounter when they take on Ghana in a World Cup qualifier on Saturday, but promised a positive outcome.
Zimbabwe is still searching for its first win in this campaign after drawing against South Africa and losing to Ethiopia.
The Warriors will be desperate for at least one win when they confront Ghana in back-to-back clashes, with Zimbabwe hosting the Black Stars in Harare on Tuesday.
Mapeza acknowledged that Ghana is a strong side with several players plying their trade in top leagues in Europe, while also noting that winning away in Africa poses a big challenge.
He said despite odds being staked against them, they will work on a plan to come back with a positive result from Ghana ahead of the home match.
While he expects a tough match, Mapeza said they were not sure how Ghana would play since they had a new coach, Milovan Rajevac, who would be taking charge of the team for the first time in his second spell.
He was coach when Ghana played at the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa.
“We are going to play a very good team. If you look at their squad, they have got so many players playing in Europe and I watched their game against South Africa and they did well despite losing. With the new coach coming, they will change their game plan. We don’t know much about their new coach except that he was there when they played the World Cup in South Africa,” Mapeza said before his departure for Ghana yesterday.
“They have Thomas Partey, Jordan Ayew. Those are quality players, so definitely it’s not going to be an easy game. They are a very good team.”
Partey plays for Arsenal in England while Ayew turns out for Crystal Palace in the same league. They also have Daniel Amertey who is at Leicester City.
Ghana do have problems of their own with five players having pulled out for various reasons. China-based Mubarak Wakaso, Italian Serie A duo of Alfred Duncan and Emmanuel Gyasi, Brentford’s Tariqe Fosu and Asante Kotoko defender Ismail Ganiyu have all withdrawn, while Reading right-back Andy Yiadom is a doubt.
The withdrawals leave Rajevac with 27 players after initially calling up 32. For the Harare match, they will not use their United Kingdom-based players.
Zimbabwe is on the red-list of UK’s COVID-19 travel policy and anyone travelling from this country would be subjected to a 10-day quarantine upon arrival back in England.
While Mapeza praised Ghana’s quality, he is just as happy with his own which he said was made up of players who are flexible.
“The squad that I picked, I think it’s a balanced squad, I am someone who is much more into the flexibility of players. Football is evolving, so you need flexibility in the squad. I hope with the guys who are here, we can go and do a good job for the nation in Ghana. Playing away in Africa is not easy. You look at the odds, they favour Ghana because of their history. They play in the Africa Cup of Nations finals a lot. It’s not going to be easy, but we will go there and give it our best and try to bring a positive result.”
Follow Kevin on Twitter@kevinmapasure