Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE Warriors technical team has been forced to drop the injured duo of Terrence Dzvukamanja and Byron Madzokere from their plans ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia.
The setback comes just under a week before the Warriors fly out to the West African nation for the penultimate Group G game against the Lone Star at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville on November 18.
Dzvukamanja picked a back injury in Bidvest Wits’ win over Maritzburg United in the quarter-final of the Telkom Knockout tournament, while Madzokere, who has been getting regular calls of late but is yet to play a part in the AFCON qualifiers, was injured during Yadah’s league game against Bulawayo City last weekend.
The South Africa-based Dzvukamanja featured in the Warriors’ last match against Democratic Republic of Congo as a second half substitute as Zimbabwe drew 1-1 with the Leopards to cement their place at the top of Group G with eight points.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare yesterday said the pair had to be dropped because there will be no time to assess their injuries since the team will not camp in Zimbabwe.
The foreign-based players who make up the bulk of the Warriors squad have been instructed to fly straight to Liberia from their bases.
Mpandare said the players will link up with coach Sunday Chidzambwa and his technical team in Liberia next Thursday, three days before the match.
“We didn’t want to risk taking along with us injured players, so these two guys are no longer going to Liberia.
“The coaches saw no need. It would have made sense to call them and assess them if we were playing at home.
“So we are working with the 19 players that we have at the moment and then we will see what happens after the weekend games. We are not ruling out chances that there could be more changes if we encounter injuries,” said Mpandare.
The Warriors have welcomed back from injury the likes of Evans Rusike, who played a cameo for Supersport at the weekend, Tino Kadewere and goalkeeper George Chigova who had picked a knee injury against DRC last month.
Former captain Willard Katsande has also been given another call after announcing he had come out of his international retirement.
The gritty Kaizer Chiefs midfielder got a huge confidence boost when he grabbed the only goal in his side’s win over Supersport United in the Telkom knockout at the weekend.
Defender Teenage Hadebe and forward Khama Billiat also played a part for Chiefs. But the biggest news for Chidzambwa and his crew should have been the participation of midfield workhorse Marvellous Nakamba in a UEFA Champions League group game when his Belgian side Club Brugge thrashed Thierry Henry’s Monaco in the midweek.
The Warriors lead Group G with a three-point cushion over second-placed DRC who have five points. And with two rounds of play remaining, they need just a point to secure their place at next year’s AFCON finals in Cameroon.
The Warriors have had some encouraging statistics from their four matches in this campaign where they have scored in every outing since the first assignment against Liberia last year which ended in a 3-0 home win.
Even in the matches that ended in the share of the spoils, Zimbabwe have scored first in every game and have not gone behind their opponents in all the games. They also remain the only team unbeaten in Group G with two wins and two draws. The Warriors have scored seven goals and conceded three.
Mpandare said they needed to manage their travel arrangements to be in good position to get a positive result in Liberia.
“We expect to be in Liberia by November 15 (next Thursday). Most of the players should be involved in action for their clubs probably through to late Sunday evening and the earliest they can get flights is by Monday morning.
“By Tuesday they will still be coming and probably the last players arrive here on Wednesday. That’s when we should have a full squad and then Thursday we depart.
“So we realised that if everyone comes to Zimbabwe first, that would be asking for too much, especially from the Europe-based players.
“For some of the players it, would mean three days of continuous travelling and it’s very taxing. You know with our flights in Africa, that you have to spend hour upon hours to travel from one region to the other.
“So we thought it better that they rather fly straight to Liberia from their respective bases, which is much easier.
“The coaches want all the players to be in the best physical and mental condition for the game,” said Mpandare.
Zimbabwe Provisional Squad
George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs), Simbarashe Chinani (Dynamos)
Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates)
Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum)
Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Tinotenda Kadewere (Le Havre AC).