The Sunday News
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa will give the biggest hint of his 2019 African Cup of Nations side when he announces a 32-man provisional squad tomorrow amid revelations that veterans Nyasha Mushekwi and Willard Katsande are in the frame.
Chidzambwa will have to first get the Cosafa Cup assignments out of the way with the Warriors aiming to stretch their impressive record in the tournament to a seventh title when they defend their crown in Durban early next month.
All eyes will no doubt be on the veteran coach as the build up to the Nations Cup continues and a lot of speculation has already begun swirling on the kind of side that Chidzambwa will entrust with doing duty for Zimbabwe in Egypt.
The Warriors are in Group A, which includes Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and the hosts Egypt with their initial target being to finally find a way to get out of the group stages.
Although the legendary coach is set to generally stick mainly with the players who participated in the qualifying campaign that began in June 2017 and concluded on March 24 when Zimbabwe beat Congo Brazzaville 2-0 at the National Sport, Chidzambwa has not closed the door on new faces.
It has emerged that China-based striker Mushekwi and Kaizer Chiefs skipper Katsande are being tracked.
The enlarged Warriors squad will be split into two batches, one for the Cosafa Cup which kicks off in Durban, South Africa on May 25 and the other for the proposed high profile friendly against three-time African champions Nigeria on June 8.
There has been debate over Mushekwi, who last featured for the Warriors at the 2017 Nations finals in Gabon before injuries forced him out of the 2019 qualifiers.
Katsande, who captained Zimbabwe at that tournament in Gabon was dropped for much of the qualifying campaign, only briefly bouncing back for the away match against Liberia in Monrovia on November 18 last year.
Although Chidzambwa could not be drawn into discussing the national team future of Mushekwi whose potency in front of goal and heavy presence could be a plus for the Warriors, The Sunday Mail understands “Mhofu” has been seriously been considering the Dalian Yifang goal forward.
The 31-year-old former CAPS United man has scored two goals in six starts for Dalian Yifang who have seven points from eight matches.
Mushekwi banged 15 goals for the Chinese top-flight side last season despite playing with an injury for much of the season.
“Anyone who is good enough will be selected, regardless of whether they featured in the qualifiers or not. The door is wide open for more players,” Chidzambwa told The Sunday Mail.
Chidzambwa said his 23-man squad for the finals in Egypt next month will come from the provisional squad that will be announced amid revelations too that skipper Knowledge Musona has already put his hand up for the Cosafa Cup duties.
But Chidzambwa is “a bit worried’’ with the preparation programme that has been lined up for his troops.
The Warriors will enter the Cosafa Cup at the quarter-final stage where they will face the winners of Group A which has Angola, Eswatini, Comoros and Mauritius.
They however, have a date with Nigeria on June 8 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, the same day for which the Cosafa Cup final has been slated for the Moses Mabhidha stadium in Durban.
“My worry is that the match against Nigeria has been slated on a date that clashes with the Cosafa tournament.
“It would have been wise to play Nigeria after the Cosafa tournament because by then we should have been able to come up with the final Afcon squad,” Chidzambwa said.
The Warriors coach is also hoping to have most of his key players for the Cosafa Cup where he is guaranteed three matches including the possibility of a dress rehearsal against the Cranes of Uganda who are the guest nation at the tournament.
“Cosafa is a good tournament, we can prepare well there. There are teams going to the Afcon finals who will participate, so I will need all the players there because it will be very competitive.”
The history-making coach must be silently praying for a smooth preparation programme given the chequered history that Zifa have with the national teams’ preparations for such big competitions like the Nations Cup where they eventually just get one game on their way to the Afcon finals venue.
Zifa president Felton Kamambo announced on April 10 that a friendly match against South Africa had been secured before promising a host of other potential match ups against Nigeria, Ghana and Tunisia.
At the moment it seems only the showdown with the Super Eagles looks certain among the high-profile friendlies.