Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
INTERIM Warriors coach Joey Antipas is encouraged by the positive vibe in his camp ahead of the decisive CHAN qualifier against Lesotho in Maseru tomorrow.
Zimbabwe have one foot in the finals after taking a 3-1 lead in the first leg.
The Warriors are up for a record fifth appearance at the tournament reserved exclusively for home-based players.
“The vibe is positive because the boys know what is at stake, which is the ticket to next year’s CHAN finals in Cameroon.
“It’s an opportunity for them to be seen by a larger audience.
“The boys are putting their all and we have to fight hard on Sunday knowing that Lesotho are quite a formidable opponent in their backyard.
“So, there is no room for complacency,” said Antipas.
The Warriors missed the previous finals in Morocco last year, after falling to Namibia in a penalty shoot-out.
That was the only time that Zimbabwe failed to make the CHAN finals since the inception of the tournament in Cote d’Ivoire 10 years ago.
In-form striker Prince Dube, who scored a double in the reverse leg against Lesotho last month, is expected to lead Zimbabwe’s charge tomorrow.
Antipas made a few changes to his squad by drafting Ngezi Platinum defender Frank Makarati for more options at the back.
Midfielders Joel Ngodzo and Kelvin Madzongwe of FC Platinum, who missed the first leg because their passports had expired, were also roped in after renewing their travelling documents.
The Warriors arrived in Maseru on Thursday evening.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said they were ready to play on the artificial turf of Sesotho Stadium.
“We haven’t been to the stadium as yet, but we are told the pitch is not in good shape.
“We are told it’s worse than what Rufaro was, but the guys are focused.
“We will not let anything distract us. The focus is on winning the game and qualifying for the CHAN tournament.
“That has been the message from the technical department to the players that it’s an opportunity for them to market themselves.
“The CHAN tournament is where the players get a chance to get better contracts.
“It’s very hot and we hope that come Sunday it will be different. You know how it is like with the artificial turf when it is hot,’’ said Mpandare.
Lesotho sharpened up their preparations with a hard fought 1-1 draw against Malawi in an international friendly last weekend.
The midfield duo of Tsepo Toloane and Makara Ntaitsane have been withdrawn from the Likuena squad due to a knee and quad muscle injuries.
They have been replaced by Neo Mokhachane and Tseliso Botsane of Bantu and Kick4Life while LMPS’s Sekhoane Moerane has been added to the squad as the third goalkeeper.
Lesotho beat South Africa home and away to secure a 6-2 aggregate win after Bafana Bafana decided to use their Under-23 team in the previous round.
Their coach, Thabo Senong, told the Lesotho Post that the Likuena coaching staff have been doing extra training with forwards Mokone Marabe and Tseliso Botsane.
“If you are looking to win a game, obviously, there has to be changes,’’ he said.
“We have already seen Zimbabwe, we know their strengths and weaknesses and we need to make sure that we score goals, but at the same time we don’t concede.
“I still believe that we can win the game (against Zimbabwe). The away goal has given me some hope.’’
Warriors CHAN squad
Goalkeepers: Simbarashe Chinani (Dynamos), Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders)
Defenders: Partson Jaure (Manica Diamonds), Peter Muduwa (Highlanders), Frank Makarati (Ngezi Platinum), Ian Nekati (ZPC Kariba), MacClive Phiri (Highlanders), Xolani Ndlovu (Chicken inn)
Midfielders: Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum), Tichaona Chipunza (Chicken Inn), Nqobizitha Masuku (Highlanders), Ralph Kawondera (Triangle), Joel Ngodzo (CAPS United), Valentine Kadonzvo (Chicken Inn), Phenias Bamusi (CAPS United)
Strikers: Prince Dube (Highlanders), Obriel Chirinda (Chicken Inn), Wellington Taderera (Black Rhinos).