Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE are likely to miss a golden opportunity to prepare for the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup as they currently do not have a programme for next week’s FIFA international break. 

The next FIFA break is expected to begin next Monday and runs until October 18. 

ZIFA, however, have not revealed if they have any plans to utilise the period to prepare the Warriors for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers that begin next month with matches against Rwanda and Nigeria in Group C. 

The group also has neighbours South Africa, Benin and Lesotho. 

The Warriors are billed to begin the 2026 World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda away from home next month and then host Nigeria a few days later in a neighbouring country, likely to be Botswana since the country does not have a CAF approved stadium. 

But new Warriors coach Baltemar Brito might not have the opportunity to have a look at his foreign-based players if ZIFA do not secure a match in the coming days.

The Warriors, who recently returned to international football following a 17-month FIFA ban, have managed to field local players in two invitational matches against Namibia last month and Botswana last weekend. 

“My team played very good football if we look at the time we had together,” said Brito.

“They assimilated quickly to the training. It was a very good performance, very good quality. I was happy but not entirely happy because I wanted to win. 

“We didn’t win but what I saw was very good. We prepared the game without any news about Botswana but we prepared thinking about my team, about the quality of my players and what the player can give me. The players showed me they had the quality and can be good for the future.”

But the two squads that have featured in the two invitational matches may not be the accurate representation of the Warriors side for international football. 

Most of Zimbabwe’s tried and tested players ply their trade at clubs mostly in neighbouring countries and in Europe. 

Brito would need to make use of the FIFA break when all the clubs around the globe are obliged to release the players for international duty. 

Zimbabwe’s World Cup qualifying opponents South Africa and Nigeria are among a host of African countries that will be busy with international friendlies in the coming two weeks. 

Bafana Bafana will play Swaziland and Cote d’Ivoire while the Nigerians have friendly dates with Saudi Arabia and Mozambique in Maputo as they prepare for the game against Zimbabwe. 

Neighbours Zambia will play Egypt on Monday. Ghana have confirmed two games against World Cup co-hosts Mexico and USA on October 14 and 18. Many other African countries will also be involved. 

The ZIFA Normalisation Committee chairman Lincoln Mutasa was not reachable for comment yesterday. 

Zimbabwe had hoped to use the 2024 CHAN qualifiers to give the local players more exposure but the qualifying games have since been shelved. 

“Reference is made to the qualifiers and final tournament of CHAN 2024. 

“Given that the host for the upcoming edition is yet to be determined, finalising the qualifier format is not feasible at this moment. 

“Therefore, the qualifiers are postponed, and new dates shall be announced once the host is confirmed. 

“However, the engagements already received from the associations are duly noted and will be taken into consideration when the draw of the qualifiers will be organised,” wrote CAF.

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