THE Warriors troop into the field hard-pressed for a berth in the Cosafa Castle Cup final at the expense of Zambia, but the Harare clash on Sunday is no easy walk for the hosts to soothe t
heir battered image.
Zimbabwean soccer plumbed the depths of despair in their last home match when a pedestrian Nigerian side humiliated the Warriors 0-3 in a 2006 World Cup qualifier last month that cost the incumbent coaches their jobs.
New head coach Charles Mhlauri makes his home debut in charge of the defending Cosafa champions against the Kalusha Bwalya-inspired Zambia – and no doubt the Caps United mentor will see it as unfair to be judged on Sunday’s performance.
Mhlauri’s charges fell 0-1 away to Angola in a World Cup qualifier barely a fortnight ago, but the Warriors’ spirited fight in Luanda has given most fans reason to believe their team can stand up to the in-form Chipolopolo in the semi-final.
“We want to win at all costs but there’s no doubt it’s going to be a big fight,” Warriors manager Ernest Sibanda told IndependentSport yesterday.
Sibanda rued the failure by injured skipper Peter Ndlovu to make it for the do-or-die semi-final, but Mhlauri might not even miss the South Africa-based hitman, who has recently been out of form in national team colours.
“Peter phoned to say he won’t make it, while it’s too late for Edzai Kasinauyo to join camp though he had indicated he would make it. So we have only two foreign-based players,” Sibanda said during yesterday afternoon’s session.
However, Mhlauri got a timely boost with the arrival yesterday of South Africa-based linkman Charles Yohane, who with Esrom Nyandoro are the only foreign-based professionals in camp.
The Warriors technical team did not call up any Europe-based players, while the absence of most players playing in South Africa will give local-based fringe players a chance to prove their mettle.
Mhlauri is expected to name his final squad today, but is likely to stick with his Caps United trio of Cephas Chimedza, David Sengu and Leonard Tsipa in the starting line-up.
Highlanders midfielder Honour Gombami, Amazulu defender Herbert Dick and Dynamos hardman James Matola are set to start the match, while Shabanie Mine’s gangling utility player Shadreck Malunga could fancy his chance of playing a part in the crunch tie.
Stand-in skipper Ronald Sibanda is likely to be employed as a central attacking linkman in a 4-4-2 formation that may see Yohane retaining his position on the left side of the midfield.
Midfield anchor Esrom Nyandoro has had to shake off a toe injury and is likely to retain his usual position in front of the central defence.
The country’s top marksman Njabulo Ncube finally has a chance to prove his performance on the domestic scene is no fluke. Exciting Caps United winger Raymond Undi is also likely to feature in Mhlauri’s plans.
Zimbabwe succumbed to a 0-1 Rotson Kilambe strike to give the Zambians the Cosafa title in 1998 when the two sides last met in the regional championship.
The winners of Sunday’s clash meet Angola in a two-legged final next month.