The Warriors marked their return to international football with a 4–3 penalty shootout defeat against hosts Botswana in their Independence Celebrations friendly match in Gaborone yesterday.
It was also new coach Baltemar Brito’s first game in charge of the Zimbabwe national team following his appointment last week.
In terms of performance, the team made up of locally based players did not disappoint, dominating both halves in spite of the defeat.
It was Zimbabwe who took the lead courtesy of a brilliant goal by the local league’s top scorer Obriel Chirinda in the 66th minute, but the lead did not last more than 30 seconds as the hosts replied right away through Lemogang Maswena.
The warriors pushed for an equaliser and Botswana survived thanks to two big saves from goalkeeper Lesenya Malapela who denied Fortune Binzi 15 minutes before fulltime and Tino Benza in stoppage time.
Brighton Manhire and Mthokozisi Msebe missed their spot kicks in the shootout while Botswana missed one.
Qadr Amini, who is not new to the national team set up, scored Zimbabwe’s first penalty as did Xolani Ndlovu, before Manhire and Msebe missed consecutive kicks.
The other penalty was scored by Peter Muduhwa.
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Brito picked an experienced starting line-up comprising players such as Muduhwa, Ndlovu, Brian Banda, Walter Musona, Godknows Murwira and William Manondo, to mention just a few.
Dynamos’ midfield pair of Tanaka Shandirwa and Donald Mudadi also made a start with Donovan Benard getting the nod in goal.
Musona got Zimbabwe’s first chance early in the game rising high to meet a Murwira cross from a set piece but his effort brushed against the crossbar on its way out.
Olebogeng Ramotse had Botswana’s best chance two minutes before the break but sent his shot over after coming face to face with Bernard.
Zimbabwe also lost a couple of players , Musona and Banda, to injury.
The match was important in that it gave Brito an opportunity to see the local players that he will need to use when the country begins the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda away from home next month.
Zimbabwe will also play Nigeria a few days later.