Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor—-
YOUNG Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa believes his side will get a real chance to gauge their strength and character when Zimbabwe face much tougher tasks against Morocco and Iran in international friendlies aimed at building a strong All-Africa Games and Olympics squad. Zimbabwe have resolved to use the Under-23 players as part of a long term project to rebuild the Warriors and Pasuwa’s charges have already played Botswana and Swaziland losing 1-0 to the Zebras in Gaborone before upstaging Sihlangu 2-0 in Mbabane last week.
Now the Young Warriors are set to travel to Marrakech, Morocco for a date with the Atlas Lions on November 16 before also taking to the road to face Iran in Johannesburg on December 19.
Pasuwa, who is also the de facto Warriors caretaker coach, yesterday confirmed that he had been advised of the pending friendlies by zifa and the Young Warriors mentor, who has missed his side’s games against Botswana and Swaziland for different reasons yesterday reckoned that his charges could now face their real test of character when they play Morocco and Iran.
Young Warriors assistant coach Saul Chaminuka took charge in both matches against Botswana and Swaziland with Pasuwa missing the Zebras’ game because he was attending a Confederation of African Football seminar to review the 2014 World Cup in Egypt while his employers — Dynamos — could not release him for the visit to Mbabane.
The Dynamos coach, however, said he was happy that the matches against Botswana and Swaziland had laid the platform from which they can build a strong Young Warriors side that will compete for places at the 2015 All-Africa Games, the African Under-23 Championships scheduled for the same year and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Pasuwa had expressed reservations with using Sihlangu as a sparring partner because his team will face Swaziland in the opening rounds of the Under-23 Championships qualifiers and the All-Africa Games qualifiers.
According to the draw of the Under-23 African Championships qualifiers and the All-Africa Games qualifiers, the Young Warriors face Swaziland in Mbabane in the first round of the All-Africa Games qualifier in February before hosting them in March for the second leg.
The winner of that encounter will then meet Cameroon in the second round.
In the Under-23 African Championships qualifying campaign in April, the two sides will lock horns again with the winner advancing to face South Africa in the second round and Senegal presents the next challenge in the third round.
After having had some reservations with playing against Swaziland at this stage, Pasuwa welcomed the arrangement of the two games against Morocco and Iran.
The unassuming coach said although he was happy with the material they had used so far in the matches against Botswana and Swaziland, he still wanted to cast his net wider and would gradually integrate “some deserving foreign-based players’’ in the squad.
“We want to use the upcoming games against Morocco and Iran to take a look at some of the youngsters we have who are based outside the country. We have an idea and even the names of the players we are targeting at assessing, we have some scouts who have been in constant touch with us who have helped to identify the players.
“I would have loved to release the names now but I think it is better to avoid rushing to publish the names before the players confirm their availability but we are not going to make wholesale changes and dump all the players we have identified so far, no.
“We will assess a few foreign-based players at a time and make sure we eventually have a balanced squad that can compete,’’ Pasuwa said.
Pasuwa said Morocco’s history on the continent showed that they were no mean opposition and reckoned that playing against them could immensely benefit his players.
“Morocco, just like most of the North African teams are very quick, they play a quick passing game, very agile and they should give us a very good test and help us see how much ground we have covered so far.
“Iran also comes with a different style of play and experience and it will be good to see how we will apply ourselves against them,’’ Pasuwa said.
The Young Warriors coach argued that there was very little time between now and when the Under-23 African Championships qualifiers start in February with a visit to Swaziland.
“In terms of football there is not much time between now and the start of the qualifiers and we have to grab each chance that we can get to prepare. The environment in Morocco will also be a good test in that it will be different from what our players have been used of late.
“Both our matches so far have been against teams from the region but it is more intimidating in North Africa and mentally and physically that will be good for our players because they need to develop that aspect of their game as well’’.
zifa, in confirming the match against Iran, said they had sought to capitalise on the Asians’ scheduled two-week training camp in South Africa with the Iranians indicating that they would cover the costs of flights and accommodation for the Young Warriors delegation to Johannesburg.
Iran, affectionately known as Team Melli, are ranked the number one team in Asia and 44th in the world according to the September 2014 Fifa ratings.
They have qualified for four World Cups in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 but their only victory at the global soccer showcase was a 2-1 triumph over United States at the 1998 tournament in France.
There is also a possibility that the Young Warriors could also play Egypt as part of their preparations.