Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor—
WARRIORS team manager Sharif Mussa has hailed the brilliant form of Zimbabwe’s internationals for their respective clubs in Europe and South Africa and challenged them to take their purple patches to the national team when they lead the senior side’s cause in the African Cup of Nations campaign next month.
The Warriors — seeking a place at the 2017 Nations Cup jamboree in Gabon — will face regional rivals Swaziland in back-to-back encounters over the Easter holidays.
Zimbabwe and Swaziland are joint leaders in Group L that includes Guinea and Malawi, with both sides having four points apiece. There is a strong buzz within the domestic football family that Callisto Pasuwa’s men could take a giant step towards ending a decade’s wait to qualify for the Nations Cup should they overcome Sihlangu in those back-to-back meetings.
The Warriors will first travel to Mbabane for a clash on Good Friday — March 25 — before hosting Sihlangu at the National Sports Stadium on Easter Monday (March 28). However, the air of confidence on the Warriors’ qualification chances has been boosted by the current fine showings of their players in Europe and South Africa.
Their team manager Mussa yesterday enthused over the brilliant form being enjoyed by the senior team’s key players at their respective clubs which the affable Harare businessman reckoned could bode well for their Nations Cup assignments.
Mussa said given the limited time that professionals have to be in camp with the national team, it was important that they be “fit and in good shape and form at their clubs as they come for national duty’’.
Big goalkeeper George Chigova turned on a five star show as he frustrated Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs in their 1-1 draw with Polokwane City at the FNB stadium on Tuesday night. Warriors skipper, Willard Katsande, who has been having a fine season for Amakhosi also featured in that 1-1 draw.
Over the weekend midfielder Marvelous Nakamba also turned on the show as he grabbed his first goal for his club Virtese with a wonder strike that some of the club’s fans likened to a similar goal by Dutch legend Johan Cryuff.
Unlike in the past, the great run of form seems to be sweeping among most of the Warriors internationals with Khama Billiat last night also turning yet another man-of-the-match performance as he inspired log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns to a 2-1 ABSA Premiership win over Mpumalanga Back Aces.
That victory helped Sundowns to maintain their seven-point gap over their nearest rivals Bidvest Wits in the championship race. Billiat’s great assist in Sundowns opener had the SuperSport commentators reckoning that it could “probably be the assist of the season’’.
The Warriors forward made a great run down the right flank, beating Thabo Nonyane before crossing for the onrushing Mzikayise Mahaba, who finished in the fifth minute.
Mussa said Pasuwa and his technical crew had been closely following the performances of their players at their respective clubs with the team manager remaining hopeful that they would transform their fine showings into the crucial battles against Swaziland.
“It is great to see that our players are upping the pace and the gear and what is important now is for them to be consistent in their performances. “If they remain consistent it will also open doors for bigger prospects for them and what we are saying of our players is proving beyond doubt that we have the talent.
“When we have the likes of Khama, Marvelous Nakamba, Knowledge Musona, Mathew Rusike scoring and scoring beauties for their clubs and having outstanding performances that should raise the Zimbabwe profile, their own profiles and the profiles of their clubs.
“Costa Nhamoinesu is also playing well for his club, Nyasha Mushekwi has been in good form in their pre-season in Spain and George Chigova was brilliant on Tuesday night,’’ Mussa said. Mussa also felt that the quality of the Warriors internationals should translate into the senior team being a regular feature at the major tournaments like the Nations Cup.
“I have always believed that with the type of players that we have, the quality, the technique and the tactical guidance we should be going places’’.
Mussa, however, said the major worry was that despite often doing well for their respective clubs, Zimbabwe internationals seemed to falter when it came to Warriors duty and the manager is hopeful it will not be a similar case when they take on Sihlangu.
“We have always had a bit of contradiction in the past where these players would be in great form for their clubs but when they come into the national colours they don’t seem to have the momentum in them.
“But if only they can transform these kind of performances that we are witnessing and lift the others so that our national team is formidable that should help our country’’.
Mussa also issued a chilling warning about underestimating Swaziland who do not have any players playing their trade in high profile leagues but have a knack of being party poopers for the so-called African giants.
“We must not be fooled that because we have the names and we have the players who are playing and doing well in Europe then it will be an easy ride against Swaziland. “Being stars and having big name players doesn’t win you games, it is all about character, application, discipline and commitment. That hunger to win.
“The fact that Swaziland have local players makes them tricky and the pressure will be more on us. We have been seeing worldwide that the minnows are causing upsets be it in the World Cup qualifiers, the FA Cup, Europa League or Champions League so it is not guaranteed that having the better players means you automatically win. We still have to work hard.
“As we speak Swaziland and their locals are training day in and day out together and that helps them to easily gel into a team and we have a few days to integrate our stars into a team even if we may have the talent.
“Swaziland’s results against big teams have shown that you cannot underestimate them but at the same time it is key to have players who are in good shape and playing at the highest level of the game and in as much as you have three days to prepare at most you should be at an advantage somehow,’’ Mussa said.