Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
SUNDAY CHIDZAMBWA has breathed new life into the international football careers of about half-a-dozen players, closed the door on a dozen others who were part of the last AFCON finals show and kept faith in those served him with distinction in the qualifiers.
Dennis Dauda has been plucked from obscurity, Tafadzwa Rusike lifted from the wilderness of international football, Thabani Kamusoko given a kiss of life and Walter Musona handed a welcome relief from the horrors stalking him at his base in South Africa.
Goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze was rewarded for his excellent maiden season in Super Diski, and possibly the cool head he kept exhibiting on the occasions he was left out of the Warriors squad, while another chance was handed out to Amazulu’s impressive defensive midfielder Butholezwe Ncube.
Chidzambwa and his assistants – Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa – went for an enlarged 34-man squad, which will have a training camp in Durban with some of the players featuring in the COSAFA Cup – where a number of those on the fringes will try to push to make the 23-man squad for the AFCON finals.
But there was no place for former captain, Willard Katsande, who had opened a window for a possible return for national duty for the AFCON finals, after featuring in the qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia, where a 0-1 loss for the team saw the blame game, by the fans, being shifted to the returning midfielder for allegedly disrupting the team.
The combative defensive midfield rock has been enjoying good form, of late, at his club Kaizer Chiefs but he won’t make the trip to Egypt while 11 others, who were also part of the show in Gabon two years ago, will also not be part of the Warriors’ invasion of the Land of the Pharaohs.
All the three goalkeepers who were in Gabon – Donovan Bernard, Tatenda Mukuruva and Takabva Mawaya – will not be part of the Warriors adventure in Egypt.
Six defenders – Bruce Kangwa, Elisha Muroiwa, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Oscar Machapa, Onismor Bhasera and the retired Costa Nhamoinesu – who were part of the Warriors in Gabon, will not be part of the team in Egypt, as Chidzambwa continued to keep faith with the players who didn’t even concede a goal, scored by an opponent, at home in the qualifiers.
The only goal the Warriors conceded, in their backyard, during the qualifiers was an own goal scored by reliable central defender Teenage Hadebe.
Matthew Rusike, Tendai Ndoro and Cuthbert Malajila, who were also part of the show in Gabon, will miss this year’s Nations Cup finals in Egypt.
Yesterday’s squad announcement by the Warriors management and technical team is set to spark a chain of events that is likely to see a number of players, who have featured regularly for the team in the past decade since winning the 2009 COSAFA Cup on home soil, announcing the end of the road for their international football careers.
Mutasa, who represented his boss Chidzambwa at yesterday’s media conference, said they felt Abbas Amidu would possibly have made the squad, if he had not been injured, while he also said Terrence Dzvukamanja, who has impressed for Bidvest Wits in the South African Premiership, would have made it had it not been for injury.
The former Dynamos gaffer said they were confident they will make a big impression at the AFCON finals, which will have 24 teams for the first time in its history, but could not commit himself to revealing how far they are likely to go because he could be dismissed as someone who was day-dreaming.
‘’We have pedigree in this team and we are very confident,’’ said Mutasa, dressed in a business suit fit for the occasion, and flanked by team manager Wellington Mpandare.
The assistant coach was also asked about why they kept believing in Evans Rusike, who didn’t score during the qualifiers and has only one goal for the Warriors in seven AFCON qualifiers, one Nations Cup finals game, and two international friends.
Mutasa said the forward gives them much more than goals, he is good in supplementing the defence, his physique could come handy against bigger and tougher opponents and was no longer being used as an out-and-out striker but one who can play a number of roles upfront.
In the last AFCON qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville, said Mutasa, Rusike was even played on the right side of the attack.
‘‘The majority of the players will report for camp on 20 May while Nyasha Mushekwi will only join the team in June because the Chinese league is currently underway,’’ said ZIFA in a statement.
‘‘Dennis Dauda, Tafadzwa Rusike and Jimmy Dzingai in the Zambian Super League will also join a few days later than the 20th.’’
Big striker Mushekwi, who did not play a part in the qualifiers, was brought back into the team with the coaches saying he was a natural goal-scorer, who already has a goal at the Nations Cup finals, and his big frame could also come in handy against tough opponents in Egypt.
Mushekwi was always going to be hard to ignore, especially against a background where none of those who are considered out-and-out strikers, managed to score a goal during the six qualifying matches for the Warriors.
The team’s goals were scored by inspirational skipper Knowledge Musona and the team’s X-Factor, Khama Billiat, while roving leftback, Ronald Pfumbidzai, got the other goal.
2017 AFCON finals squad
Donovan Bernard (How Mine)
Tatenda Mkuruva (Dynamos)
Takabva Mawaya (Hwange)
Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Praha)
Bruce Kangwa (Azam FC)
Elisha Muroiwa (Dynamos)
Hardlife Zvirekwi (Caps United)
Oscar Machapa (AS Vita Club)
Onismor Bhasera (Supersport United)
Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn)
Teenage Hadebe (Chicken Inn)
Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows)
Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs)
Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows)
Marvelous Nakamba (Vitesse Arnhem)
Tinotenda Kaderwere (Djuargardens)
Cuthbert Malajila (Bidvest Wits)
Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United)
Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende)
Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang)
Mathew Rusike (SC Sfaxien)
Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates)
2019 COSAFA & AFCON finals Provisional Squad
George Chigova, Edmore Sibanda, Elvis Chipezeze, Talbert Shumba
Dennis Dauda, Lawrence Mhlanga, Jimmy Dzingai, Byron Madzokere, Alec Mudimu, Teenage Hadebe, Divine Lunga, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Tendai Darikwa
Danny Phiri, Marshall Munetsi, Marvelous Nakamba, Butholezwe Ncube, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiat, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Tafadzwa Rusike, Richard Hachiro, Talent Chawapihwa, Leeroy Mavunga, Knowledge Musona, Thabani Kamusoko, Rodwell Chinyengetere
Nyasha Mushekwi, Evans Rusike, Walter Musona, Tinotenda Kadewere, Knox Mutizwa, Admiral Muskwe