Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa is still hopeful his charges will be able to secure at least two warm-up matches in order to gauge their preparedness for the African Nations Championships in Rwanda.
The Warriors regrouped on Saturday morning to begin the final of their preparations for their record fourth successive CHAN appearance where they will be in a Group that features perennial rivals Zambia, Mali and Uganda.
Only Zimbabwe and Cote d’Ivoire, inaugural winners in 2009 have been to every edition of the CHAN tournament, a competition reserved by the Confederation of African Football only for those players playing in their national leagues.
After finishing a creditable fourth at the third edition in Cape Town, South Africa, Pasuwa’s men are hoping for another fairy-tale run in Rwanda.
But the Warriors coach revealed his desire for at least two warm-up matches against stronger opposition before they plunge into their CHAN battles.
ZIFA have hinted on a possibility of the Warriors playing Mozambique in an international friendly.
However, if the Warriors’ current itinerary is anything to go by, then the senior team could actually face Ethiopia in Addis Ababa en route to Kigali.
Pasuwa last night conceded that no concrete fixture has been lined up as yet but the coach did not hide his desire to have the warm-up games before they take on Zambia’s Chipolopolo in their opening Group D game in Rubavu on January 19.
The former Dynamos coach said the friendlies will provide a platform to assess some of his players in a pressure scenario.
While he expressed satisfaction with the preparations that have been condensed in order to get the Warriors ready for their Group D assignments, Pasuwa said playing stronger opposition would help give them an insight on some of the weaknesses they may not have easily detected at training.
“Some of these players do exceptionally well at training so much that you would think we can go on to win 9-1 but in a game situation you could actually see a different player from the one you would have been seeing at training.
“So it is always important for us to play these high profile friendly matches so that we see how some of these players react in a pressure situation and how best we can improve on our weak areas.
“We have heard that there are plans that we will stop over in Ethiopia and pay a friendly match against the national team there and that will be good for us.
“It also seems like we will arrive in Rwanda earlier and hopefully we can be able to play against a club or two from that country or from neighbouring DRC or even countries like Kenya or Burundi that are not very far from Rwanda but we are saying the warm up games are equally important to our training programme,’’ Pasuwa said. The Warriors gaffer who has already five payers through injury said he was braced up for more changes to his training squad. Pasuwa said the rate at which injuries were stalking his squad meant that he would delay naming his final 23 until deadline day. Even though he would name the final 23 for the tournament, Pasuwa said he would not drop any more players until departure day as he wanted those remaining to continue to be in shape in case they are roped in at the 11th hour.
“We have been unfortunate with injuries and from today until the 19th when we play our first game, we are expecting anything to happen and we are getting ourselves ready for some more changes.
“So even if we have to meet the CAF deadline to register the final 23 players we are not dropping anyone until we leave because in the event that we may need to make a late change, we would want to call someone who would be in shape.
“If is off-season now so once a player leaves camp he will stop training and it’s easy to quickly lose shape,’’ Pasuwa said.
Although he is generally happy with preparations, the 44-year-old coach sounded worried about the time lost when the Warriors camp was hit by problems. The disturbances which included an ill-timed and ill-advised ZIFA decision to fire Pasuwa and disbanding the Warriors camp meant valuable time to prepare was lost.
It is against this background that the Warriors are now working under a tight schedule as they are racing against time to be in the kind of shape that would help them mount a strong chance to advance from Group D.