Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa has requested ZIFA to secure a high-profile friendly game with one of the World Cup-bound countries during the March FIFA international friendly dates. The veteran coach has set his sights on playing either Senegal or Egypt when he gets his first opportunity to assess a full Warriors squad during the international break. Chidzambwa has also placed neighbours South Africa and Kenya on his radar.
The matches are set for March 19 to 27. ZIFA have since despatched invitational letters to the football associations of Senegal and Egypt. Although the bid to have the pair which is going to Russia in June might appear an ambitious one, considering that the African heavyweights might be eyeing stronger opponents than the Warriors for their preparatory games, Chidzambwa says there is no harm in trying.
It is this bullish approach that shows the new substantive coach is not taking lightly the journey to Cameroon, where the 2019 AFCON finals will be held, with the qualifiers resuming in September. Together with Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria, Senegal and Egypt are the African representatives set to grace the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The Confederation of African Football moved all the Nations Cup qualifiers which had been scheduled for March to give the African representatives at the World Cup more time to prepare for the global showcase. Chidzambwa has since indicated he is worried about the long spells of inactivity by his side and wants to get full value on the slightest chance they can get.
He has since drafted a plan to his superiors at ZIFA on how they can utilise dates that have been set aside by FIFA for international friendlies as well as arranging more games that could help him assess the material he has on offer. “We feel any one of these teams will present us with good competition. “We want to play strong teams and we have requested to ZIFA to get us those opponents,” said Chidzambwa.
“We don’t know which team will agree to our request. We would want to have a full strength squad, the one which we will use during the qualifiers. There is no point to play these friendly matches with local players yet the bulk of players that will play in the qualifiers would not be assessed.”
As the technical team battles to have Zimbabweans dotted around European clubs available for assessment, ZIFA have also resolved that during off-season all the targeted players should avail themselves for some assessment matches by the national team coach. “We have only had a chance to see few of those players in action, but we have lot of talent playing abroad,” said Chidzambwa.
Crucially for ZIFA, they have covered a lot of ground in coming up with a sizeable number of stars who can add value to the Warriors. Four of those players — Oldham Athletic midfielder Kundai Benyu, Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, Leicester City forward Admiral Muskwe and Leyton Orient Macauley Bonne — came home last November for international matches against Namibia and Lesotho.
ZIFA technical director Wilson Mtekede, who was in charge of those matches, has since recommended that the players should be considered for future national team assignments.