Petros Kausiyo in RUBAVU, Rwanda
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa has revealed that he will ring some changes today as Zimbabwe face Mali in a make-or-break African Nations Championship Group D showdown at Umuganda Stadium this afternoon.
The match kicks off at 3pm Zimbabwean time.
The Warriors have found themselves under immense pressure to avoid an early exit from this competition after they fell 0-1 to Zambia in their opening match at the same venue on Tuesday.
Pasuwa yesterday said he was aware the Warriors need to rescue their campaign at these finals, but insisted he was not under immense pressure.
Another defeat will spell gloom for the Warriors who are currently bottom of their group.
“We are not under any pressure and we will play our normal game and we are still confident of winning and progressing.
“We have been working hard on correcting all our grey areas, we have been working on converting chances and also tightening the defence,’’ Pasuwa.
The former Dynamos coach, however, saw part of his game plan for today’s match receive another huge blow with yet another defender Blessing Moyo ruled out.
Moyo, a versatile player who can be used in defence or in midfield, had sat out the match against Zambia as an unused substitute.
But the Harare City newboy received a knock following a training midfield duel with Farai Madhanhanga and the former Dynamos incurred a calf muscle injury.
Pasuwa was looking to throw Moyo into a midfield role to try and add grit and mobility to the engine-room.
There were genuine concerns about the lack of pace and grit on the part of FC Platinum’s Gerald Takwara in the first game and with the Malians having pace apart from being physically stronger, Pasuwa wants to use more ball players.
Mali’s best player on show in their opening game was central midfielder Yves Bissouma and given the manner in which the 20-year-old AS Real Bamako player tormented Uganda, Pasuwa has every reason to worry about his own midfield.
Bissouma is not only enterprising but has precision in his passing and Moyo was likely to be employed to check his movements especially given that the Eagles are also good at counter raids.
The West Africans are featuring in their third successive CHAN tournament having made their debut at the 2011 competition in Sudan which was won by Tunisia.
“Blessing has a swollen calf muscle and is now out of the game. He is one player we were looking to throw into the central midfield to add that quickness and grit but unfortunately we have to devise another plan for that area.
“We will also have to look at Edmore Chirambadare again to see how he is doing before making a decision because he also has a swollen eye. Marshall Mudehwe also had a swollen eye but he is much better and fit again.
“Physically we are at a disadvantage but we are not really changing the game plan to suit their physique,’’ Pasuwa said.
Pasuwa, however, revealed that their approach to the showdown with the Eagles would be different from the one they employed against Chipolopolo.
The former Dynamos coach also refused to be look back to their 2-1 triumph over the Eagles at the 2014 CHAN tournament in South Africa because “that game is history now and if you look at the team that is here only Hardy (Hardlife Zvirekwi) has remained.
“We cannot change our physique but we will change the design of our game and we will make some changes to the team that started against Zambia to try and correct the mistakes we made.
“We had problems in central midfield in terms of keeping the ball but now we are looking at having more ball players in midfield this time around.
“We are also looking at changing things around this time in the way we attack and we have to create openings in their defence but we must never allow them space at the back because Mali are very quick on the break as seen by the way they got their goals against Uganda.
“But we will not change to suit them, if they are too fast we will slow them down and in fact we have to impose our game and force them to play to our tune,’’ Pasuwa said.
Dynamos striker Rodreck Mutuma looks certain to be handed a start ahead of Francisco Zekumbawire and Marshall Mudehwe, Nqobizitha Masuku or Joel Ngodzo could also come in.
Masuku looks likely the next option to fill in the role that Moyo was set to be assigned and if Mudehwe comes on, then Ronald Chitiyo could move into a more central role playing just behind Mutuma.
Given Mali’s aerial strength Pasuwa may have to call on the height and experience of Dynamos goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva ahead of Donovan Bernard as part of the changes to his side.
Mali coach Djibril Drame said he still retained respect for Zimbabwe but was confident they would turn the tables on the Warriors this time around.
“They beat us in South Africa but now this is a different tournament and these are different teams and physically and spiritually we are ready for any team in the group,’’ Drame said.
Drame said despite twice coming from behind to force a 2-2 draw against Uganda, Mali would also be under pressure in today’s battle against the Warriors.
“It is good to have a point but it is not enough and we are under pressure to win and Zimbabwe are also under pressure so we are expecting a tough match,’’ Drame said.
Eagles skipper and defender Assoko Hamed Marius also exuded confidence ahead of today’s first of a Group D double header at Umuganda Stadium where pool leaders Zambia will take on the Uganda Cranes.
“We are looking at winning only because we want to go far in the competition and we are ready to face any opposition,” the 25-year-old Onze Creatures defender said.
The Warriors also received the backing of Uganda coach Milutin “Micho’’ Sredojevic who felt Pasuwa’s men just need a combination of luck and composure to get a win.
“I follow Zimbabwean football a lot in fact I follow African football a lot and Zimbabwe have a strong team of young players.
“Just like us, Zimbabwe have brought Under-23 players and as we prepare for AFCON 2019 in Cameroon when these players will be experienced.
“I saw their game against Zambia and I saw the cruelty part of this beautiful game of football because the Warriors were not supposed to lose. If they create as many chances against Mali they will win,’’ Micho said.