AS the Warriors return to competitive international football after nearly two years of banishment by Fifa, coach Baltemar Brito wants to open a new chapter with the first Group C 2026 Fifa World Cup qualifier away to Rwanda at Huye Stadium today.
The Warriors face Rwanda, with Brito having assembled a 23-member squad, with other players initially invited for the qualifiers failing to make it.
However, key players that include skipper Marvelous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi, Teenage Hadebe, Jordan Zemura, Tino Kadewere and Admiral Muskwe, among others in Rwanda, are prepared to make the country proud.
Tivonge Rushesha linked up with the squad yesterday after arriving from his base in the United Kingdom.
Brito said their target is to win games and collect points.
“First of all, we should understand that we are starting a new process. We are making an effort for things to go well. After the long spell due to the ban, some of the players are meeting for the first time. We need time to create connections, to create habits, but this does not mean that we come here without expectations, without a feeling that we can do well. Our target here is to represent the country Zimbabwe well, to try to win and collect points and to create a new mentality and a new beginning for Zimbabwean football,” Brito said.
“We know Rwanda. We did our assessments. We have analysts in our technical staff, one good professional that the committee (Zifa) provided and from that information we are ready and when we assess the opponents you never know if they will come up with the same plan.
“So it is important to think for ourselves what we ought to do so that we make them adjust to us. The training sessions have been good. The numbers are increasing and they come with a smile. Even the players know they are professional and know that football needs time but when you come with a winning spirit and an open heart to defend your country, good things can come.”
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Nakamba, who arrived in Rwanda with Munetsi and Tanzania-based Prince Dube, said everyone is geared up for the game.
“Everyone is geared up. We are pushing each other although some of us just arrived today but most of the guys were and I think they trained yesterday and we are still waiting for other players to come,” Nakamba said.
“We are looking forward to the games, the first one against Rwanda and we will take them game by game. International games are different to club-level games, so we are just focusing on our own, giving everything in training and motivating each other to give the best for the country.
“I am very excited to be back, and looking forward to the games. I missed Afcon last time and of course, having football back as a country is good for us, everyone and the youngsters who have a dream to represent the country and it can also help them play internationally.”
After Rwanda, the Warriors will host Nigeria in their second Group C tie on Sunday at the same venue.
Zimbabwe lost their last four matches against Rwanda and they will be looking to end the dry spell.