Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS skipper Knowledge Musona and midfield star Khama Billiat have been ruled out of the four-nation tournament to be hosted by neighbours Zambia next week as injuries have reduced coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s options. The duo have missed important games for their teams of late because of injuries.
South Africa-based winger Kuda Mahachi and Leicester City forward Admiral Muskwe have also been overlooked as they have been nursing knocks.
The technical team’s efforts to lure 20-year-old Leeds midfielder Andrew Farai Rinomhota to consider a future with the Warriors have been abandoned for now since he has been battling for fitness.
Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare yesterday indicated the core of the side will be maintained while a host of new faces are set to illuminate the squad to be announced by Chidzambwa today.
“Khama Billiat is injured. Sundowns have recommended that he be left out as he has also missed some games for his team recently because of the knocks.
“Again, there is no chance that Musona will be available,” said Mupandare.
Billiat has been struggling with knocks in the last 12 months and has missed Zimbabwe’s previous three assignments, which included the 2019 AFCON opening qualifier against Liberia in Harare and the two international friendlies against Lesotho and Namibia late last year.
Musona, a hat-trick hero in the game against Liberia was also excused for the trips to Lesotho and Namibia because of knocks.
The England-based duo of Rinomhota and Muskwe have just recovered from injuries, but the technical team could not risk calling them for the coming assignment.
Zimbabwe, Angola, South Africa and hosts Zambia will converge on the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola for double-header dates from March 22-25.
The Warriors will leave for the tournament either Monday or Tuesday next week with some of the foreign-based players having to fly directly to Zambia.
“This tournament is very crucial for us because if you look at the teams involved, they are definitely the powerhouses of Southern Africa and you are always assured of quality competition.
“For us, the whole idea is for the technical team to assess the players at their disposal seeing that our team is on gradual transformation.
“We have new players coming in and some whom we expect to be part of the new set-up and this is an opportunity for the coaches to see who fits in and the possible combinations.
“For example, we had Costa Nhamoinesu playing with Elisha (Muroiwa) in defence at AFCON, but now the likes of Teenage Hadebe are expected to be coming in.
“And with Khama and Knowledge injured, the coach would also want to see people like Silas Songani, who is reportedly doing well at his club. He would want to see as many players as possible.
“It’s unfortunate there is no time for a training camp and some of the players are even flying directly to Zambia because of the time factor.
“So it may look like it’s a gamble, but the coach just wants to see the players in a game situation against some good opposition and he will make his decisions as we prepare ourselves for our next big assignments in the AFCON qualifiers coming up in September.
“After this, we also hope to utilise the World Cup period in June to get the players for assessment again. We definitely have to arrange games, even if it means playing select teams featuring our own players like what used to happen during Reinhard Fabisch’s time. So I hope people will understand the thrust we are taking,” said Mpandare.
The Warriors technical team had also wanted to have another look at the British Brigade — Macaulay Bonne, Tendayi Darikwa and Kundai Benyu — but they are still sorting out their documents. Muskwe, who holds a Zimbabwean passport, has also been ruled out by injury.
There were also plans to rope in Australia-based goalkeeper Tando Velaphi who is enjoying his professional football with Wellington Phoenix in the A-League. Winners will play each other in the final with the losers playing for third and fourth positions.
Zambia have indicated they will field a full strength squad with foreign-based players expected to be added to the 30-member provisional squad that has already been summoned by Chipolopolo coach Wedson Nyirenda.