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Musona lifts gloom in Warriors camp

Knowledge Musona

Tadious Manyepo

Sports Reporter

WARRIORS captain Knowledge Musona is expected to join camp today ahead of the 2021 AFCON penultimate round qualifier against Botswana in Francistown on Thursday.

There is also a ray of hope that the French-based duo of Tino Kadewere and Marshall Munetsi could as well make it after the French league gave a waiver for players to represent their national teams for the upcoming FIFA international calendar.

The 2021 AFCON finals will be staged in Cameroon next year, one year after the original date due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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There had been fears the inspirational Warriors skipper Musona would miss the crunch match against Botswana as well as the final qualifier at home against Zambia on Monday next week because of a recent injury.

But he has hit top form since recovering from the injury with the former Kaizer Chiefs talisman scoring in his Belgian club KAS Eupen’s 2-0 victory over KV Kortrijk on Eupener Kehrweg on Saturday night.

With the absence of some key players for the double assignment due to Covid-19 related complications, Musona’s availability has put Zimbabwe coach Zdravko Logarusic’s men in good stead.

Kaizer Chiefs star Khama Billiat, who has formed a deadly combination with Musona since 2011, is out with an injury.

Players based in the UK, who include Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, Tendayi Darikwa, Brendan Galloway, Jordan Zemura and Scotland-based David Moyo, have all failed to pitch up for the same reason.

Goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, who was expected to make a comeback following a three-year absence from the national team, has also been ruled out.

Mukuruva plays for Michigan Stars in the United States.

But it is the presence of the Warriors’ most reliable goal-getters Musona that has raised hopes for the Zimbabweans.

Munetsi and Kadewere’s presence will as well help add steel to Logarusic’s side.

“Musona (Knowledge) is arriving tomorrow  (today) along with a host of other players,” said Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare yesterday.

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“We are very happy as a team to have Musona in the squad.”

Musona has been scoring crucial goals for his club and the form he has hit could just be what the captain needs to raise his confidence ahead of the AFCON battles against Botswana and Zambia.

By yesterday, SuperSport United utility player Kuda Mahachi was the only South Africa-based Warrior to have joined camp.

The Zambia-based contingent, who include Tafadzwa Rusike, Talbert Shumba and Takudzwa Chimwemwe, have already joined Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda who was the first player to go into camp last week.

Sibanda is the only locally-based player in the 23-man squad with the rest placed on standby.

The 31-year old shot-stopper went into camp and spend the rest of last week training alone as part of the mandatory quarantine to minimize chances of contracting Covid-19.

All players are being tested for Covid-19 upon joining camp as the authorities want to minimize chances of an outbreak that characterized the Chan team in January.

The Turkey-based duo of Alec Mudimu and Teenage Hadebe are expected to be the last batch to arrive in Zimbabwe together with Spain-based goalkeeper Martin Mapisa  late tomorrow.

Logarusic is a concerned man though with the Croat knowing it would be a tough call going into the match against Botswana on Thursday without spending much time together with his Warriors.

The team departs for Francistown on Wednesday via Johannesburg.

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They will connect to Gaborone before heading for the match venue on the same day.

Loga’s men will have a feel of the match venue once, just like he will have a single training session with all his players early on Wednesday here.

“I am happy that we will have some of the best Warriors in the team like Knowledge Musona,” said Logarusic.

“Covid-19 has conspired to deny us the best players we want to have in our team.

“Other players like Khama Billiat and Devine Lunga will not be in the team because of injuries.

“But, that is the nature of the game. It’s hardly ideal so we have to do our best with what we have.

“It’s not a weakened side. These are the players at our disposal so we have to go out there and show our depth.

“These two fixtures present us with a big opportunity to qualify for the AFCON finals if we get good results.

“All Zimbabwean players have what it takes and those who are able to play in these fixtures know what is expected of them.”

Zimbabwe are second on the four-team log standings with five points to their name and five behind already-qualified Algeria.

Botswana, on four, and log anchors Zambia, on three, are both wrestling against the Warriors for the only remaining ticket to join Algeria at next year’s AFCON finals in Cameroon.

Zimbabwe’s destiny is in their own hands though and can even qualify for their third successive AFCON appearance if they beat Botswana and Zambia fail to account for Algeria at home on Thursday.

HERALD