Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THERE is a positive vibe in the Warriors camp as they start their 2021 AFCON qualifying campaign against Botswana at the National Sports Stadium tonight. The match starts at 6pm. Skipper Knowledge Musona, who was the last to arrive in camp on Wednesday night, was in high spirits yesterday as the team wound up the morning preparations.
“The guys are happy. Everyone is smiling, they are working hard in training and I hope we will keep it like this in these two games and carry on with that going forward,’’ said Musona.
“Everyone is ready to play and win the game. We are playing at home, so we have to go out and play our best and make sure we collect maximum points.
“It’s very important to win because it also boosts our confidence going into our next game (against Zambia) on Tuesday. We need to start strongly and finish strongly, just like in the other times that we play at home. We have to try and kill the game in the first half by utilising every chance that we get.
“The supporters will be behind us and we need to give them something to be happy about. Nowadays, there are no small teams. So we are not going to underrate Botswana.’’
The forward pledged to give his all in this game as he needs to redeem himself following a difficult year.
The former Kaizer Chiefs man has been a big performer for Zimbabwe in the AFCON qualifiers, with eight goals under his belt, to help the Warriors make it for the 2017 and 2019 finals.
But he has been experiencing some serious challenges at his club Anderlecht in Belgium which has seen him missing competitive football for some months now.
“I have been training with the (Anderlecht) team 100 percent, so I am not worried,’’ he said.
“I remember when I was in Germany, I was not playing football but I came here and played for the national team and there was no problem.
“So, I expect the same because I was not just seated. I was training, a normal training just like the other players.”
The Warriors are fancying their chances at home after assembling a strong outfit that includes the likes of Khama Billiat, Teenage Hadebe, Marshall Munetsi, Kuda Mahachi and Marvelous Nakamba, who is making waves at English Premiership side Aston Villa.
Botswana have also travelled with a competitive squad that includes six foreign-based players like Mpho Kgaswane of Azerbaijan side Zirah FC and winger Kabelo Seakanyeng, who plays for Lijah Atlhetic in Malta.
They have four South Africa-based players in goalkeeper Ezekiel Morake and Mosha Gaolaolwe both with second-tier TS Galaxy, Mogakolodi Ngele of Black Leopards and Highlands Park’s Lesenye Ramorake.
Veteran midfielder, Ofentse Nato, also makes his return in Adel Amrouche’s squad after a lengthy absence from the Zebras.
“One thing for sure is that we know Botswana. They are not easy meat. We have to work hard to try and come out with a positive result,’’ said interim coach Joey Antipas. If we take our opponents lightly, then we might struggle but if we respect them, and take them head-on, then it’s possible we can come up with a positive result.
“It’s dangerous for anyone to take Botswana lightly because teams are improving very much these days.
“There is no room for complacency.”
ZIFA have maintained the gate charges at $20 for the rest of the ground tickets, $50 for bays 15-18 and $120 for the most expensive VIP tickets.
ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said advance tickets are available on online at www.clicknpay.africa.
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze, Simbarashe Chinani, Talbert Shumba
Defenders: Alec Mudimu, Cliff Moyo, Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga, Ian Nekati, Partson Jaure, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Kelvin Moyo.
Midfielders: Marvelous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Butholwezi Ncube, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Thabani Kamusoko
Strikers: Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Knox Mtizwa, Prince Dube
Goalkeepers: Ezekiel Morake (TS Galaxy, South Africa), Kabelo Dambe (Township Rollers), Lesenya Malapela (Orapa United)
Defenders: Mmoloki Kebalepile (Extension Gunners), Gape Gaogangwe (Orapa United), Tshepo Maikano (Gaborone United), Onkarabile Ratanang, Simisane Mathumo, Thatayaone Ditlokwe (Township Rollers), Lesenya Ramora (Highlands Park, South Africa), Kaelo Kgaswane (Security Systems)
Midfielders: Mosha Gaolaolwe (TS Galaxy, South Africa), Molebatsi Tlhalefo, Ofentse Nato, Maano Ditshupo (Township Rollers), Keagile Kobe (BDF XI), Thatayaone Ramatlapeng (Security Systems), Mogakolodi Ngele (Black Leopards, South Africa), Kabelo Seakanyeng (Lija Athletic, Malta), Mpho Kgaswane (Zira FC, Azerbaijan)
Strikers: Tumisang Orebonye, Lemponye Tshireletso (all Township Rollers), Kenanao Kgetholetsile (Security Systems), Mishani Thupa (Extension Gunners), Thayaone Kgamanyane (Gaborone United)