UNDER-23 Zimbabwe soccer team coach Kalisto Pasuwa has challenged his charges to prove themselves against their more experienced opponents Morocco whom they face in an international friendly match on Sunday. TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
The Warriors were scheduled to leave for Morocco last night for the practice match which Zimbabwe is using as a dress rehearsal for the 2015 Under-23 African Championships and the All-Africa Games.
The Atlas Lions who have been engaging in a series of friendly matches to prepare for the African Cup of Nations finals on their home soil had named a squad dominated by Europe-based professionals including Bayern Munich centre-back Mehdi Benatia before they were disqualified from the tournament and dumped as hosts by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) after advising the soccer mother body they were no longer able to host the tournament because of the Ebola virus threat.
The practice match against Zimbabwe will, however, go ahead as scheduled and after going through some drills with 13 local based players at the Zifa Village yesterday — the first time for the national team to train there, Pasuwa acknowledged they were facing a more experienced side and said it would help him gauge his rebuilding exercise.
“This is a very important match to us,” he said.
“We are looking at a number of players in our rebuilding exercise and Morocco offers us another good opportunity to gauge ourselves in terms of where we are coming from and where we are going.
“The North Africans are very quick, agile and play with aggression and we want to see how we fare against them. We are happy to have five foreign based players in the team. Technically they are above us and we hope they will produce a good show. They have to prove themselves.”
Team captain Ronald Pfumbidzai, who led his troops to a 2-0 win over Swaziland in the last friendly match, said they were going to Morocco to win.
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“We are going to Morocco to win,” he said.
“There isn’t much difference because they play in their respective premier league clubs and we also play in the top-flight league here. So we are going there looking for a victory.”
The five foreign-based players called up by Pasuwa include Munyaradzi Mbanje who plays in the United Kingdom for Leeds United Academy, Northampton striker David Moyo, Macauley Bonne of English League One side Colchester United, Marvellous Nakamba who plays for Netherlands top-flight league side Vitesse and Mamelodi Sundowns winger Kuda Mahachi. The foreign-based players are scheduled to fly directly to Morocco from their bases.
The Warriors coach has also added new faces to the team that played in the last two international friendlies against Botswana and Swaziland with towering Bantu Rovers defender Teenage Hadebe, Shabanie Mine defender Douglas Sibanda, Harare City’s Takudzwa Chimwemwe and ZPC Kariba’s Tafadzwa Mavhunga making the cut.
This will be the first time Pasuwa will have the chance to assess his players in a game situation since his appointment after failing to travel to Botswana and Swaziland, with his assistant Saul Chaminuka — the ZPC boss — taking charge of the two matches with Hwange’s Nation Dube.
Zimbabwe faces Swaziland in Mbabane in the first round of the All-Africa Games qualifiers in February before hosting them in March for the second leg next year.
The winner between the two will then meet Cameroon in the second round. Pasuwa’s men will also face Swaziland in the African Championship qualifying campaign in April and should they win the encounter they will face neighbours South Africa in the second round with Senegal awaiting in the third round should they triumph.
Squad: B Donovan, T Mukuruva, B Moyo, T Hadebe, D Sibanda, R Pfumbidzai, M Nakamba, P Mpelele, T Chimwemwe, G Nyoni, T Mavhunga, C Rusere, C Mukanhairi, K Mahachi, B Macauley, M Mbanje, D Moyo, E Mandiranga