WARRIORS OFF TO NIGERIA
Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
THE ZIMBABWE Warriors yesterday set off for the second leg of the AFCON preparations when they flew to Nigeria for their high-profile international match against the Super Eagles at Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba tomorrow.
The Warriors, who had set up base in Durban for the COSAFA Cup, left with 18 players to intensify their preparations for the Nations Cup.
The other four AFCON-bound players remained in South Africa, together with assistant coaches Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa, and will follow on Sunday after playing in the third/fourth place play-off against Lesotho.
China-based forward, Nyasha Mushekwi, is already in Nigeria where he connected directly from his base.
Head coach Sunday Chidzambwa, who was back home to bury his father, linked up with the squad in Johannesburg yesterday.
There were no major surprises among those who made it into the final AFCON squad with the bulk of the players having played in the qualifiers.
There were, however, some new faces with impressive Baroka goalkeeper, Elvis Chipezeze, and Thabani Kamusoko making it into the final team.
However, the duo together with Tafadzwa Kutinyu and Ronald Pfumbidzai will miss the clash against the Super Eagles.
After Saturday’s friendly match in Asaba, the Warriors will stay in Nigeria until they depart for Egypt for the continental football show-piece.
The home-based players such as Yadah’s Leeroy Mavhunga and Byron Madzokere, Zanaco midfielder Tafadzwa Rusike, Lusaka Dynamos defender Dennis Dauda and Chapungu goalie Talbert Shumba, are some of the players who remained in Durban.
Despite their defeat to Zambia in the COSAFA Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night, Gumbo said they still managed to achieve their goal by giving their players a run and trying various combinations.
He said the bigger picture remained the AFCON tournament.
“It was unfortunate that the game had to go to a penalty shoot-out because we had done our part (to try and win it).
“I think what we really wanted to see, as a team, came out well because we gave a couple of players a run around and gave them game time. We have 32 players, so we have to give the other players who didn’t play today a round of play.
“I think we are going to see a totally different team again (for the third-place play-off),” said Gumbo.