Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS forward Talent Chawapihwa is hoping to put behind a disappointing start to the season at his South African club Baroka as he shifts focus to national team duty ahead of Zimbabwe’s African Cup of Nations soccer qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday night.
The Warriors arrived in the DRC in the early hours of yesterday morning and were expected to have their first training session later in the day.
Saturday’s top of the table clash is scheduled for the artificial turf of the Complexe Omnisports de Stade Martyrs in Kinshasa in a match that could set the tone for either side in this year’s campaign.
The match will be also broadcast live on Supersport 9 and kick-off is 7:30pm.
ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela, who was the advance party that left for Kinshasa at the weekend, told The Herald that the team should brace for humid conditions.
But for Chawapihwa what is important is to secure at least a point against the Leopards in order to make their job easier when they come back home for the return fixture next Tuesday evening.
“We are focused very well and as individuals we are all looking forward to this game, of course with the confidence that we have and the whole nation behind us. “Obviously it’s going to be a tough one but we are going there to win. We are going to put maximum effort so that we avoid losing there.
“If the worst comes to the worst, I think it will be great if we get a point from there and then come back home and win. We will do our best. We don’t want to let the nation down,” said Chawapihwa. The Warriors are currently tied on four points with the DRC in Group G which also has Congo-Brazzaville and Liberia, who have one point each ahead of their own back to back meetings this weekend.
DR Congo coach Florent Ibenge has stressed the importance of the double header clashes with Zimbabwe by calling up the majority of his star players from the various leagues across Europe.
The Leopards got in camp on Monday with a group of professional and local players that include Aston Villa’s Yannick Bolasie, China-based Cedric Bakambu, Marcel Tisserand from German side Wolfsburg and the English Premiership duo of Arthur Masuaku and Neeskens Kebano.
However, they had experienced a setback with the unavailability of Aaron Tshibola. The Congolese Federation (Fecofa) reported that the midfielder from Kilmarnock (Scotland), on loan from Aston Villa, was due to make his debut for his fatherland but gave up due to administrative concerns.
Chawapihwa said the Warriors are not concerned about what is happening in the opponents’ camp.
“Football has its own way of surprising people. The way they play in Europe is the same we play in South Africa. Only the personnel, the money and stuff is different but the football is just the same.
“We mustn’t lose to them because we are tied on the log standings. Even if it means drawing the two matches, I think it will still be fine for both teams. What we want are the points, all the six points if possible.
“We are happy almost everyone is here, Tendayi Darikwa is also here and it’s a big boost to the nation.
“There is great spirit in the camp. The good thing is we have been together as a unit for a while now. Probably the only addition is Darikwa and he is getting along well with the boys. It’s been nice coming back and working together as players,” said Chawapihwa.
The Baroka winger, however, has experienced some ups and downs in his personal career with his South Africa club this season. Recently there were reports of personality clashes between Chawapihwa and the club’s Zambian coach Wedson Nyirenda but the forward insisted he is more interested in helping the team avoid relegation this year after finding themselves trapped in the bottom rungs of the log standings.
“So far I can say I am on the right track, I am improving a lot. There are things that I couldn’t do last season that I am doing this season. So I can say I am happy for myself. But I am still learning and improving. I feel there is still room for improvement as a player.
“My personal target is to achieve something tangible with the team, I want to play my part in all earnest. This season the team has been struggling and I have to help the team finish in a respectable position, probably top eight. Then my long-term target is to make a move to bigger team,” said Chawapihwa.
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs)
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kelvin Moyo (FC Platinum), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars)
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Danny Phiri (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge KV)
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Knowledge Musona (RSC Anderlecht), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Knox Mutizwa.