BY HENRY MHARA
Zimbabwe will begin their defence of the regional tournament from the quarter-final stage, with a match on Sunday against group B winners.
The team started preparations this week, with the bulk of the players having reported for camp yesterday, except for skipper Knowledge Musona, poster boy Khama Billiat, Tino Kadewere and Costa Nhamoinesu, who are all expected today.
Injured Marvellous Nakamba was expected in last night for assessment by the Warriors medical team.
Britain-based stars Macauley Bonne, Kundai Benyu, Adam Chicksen, Cliff Moyo and Tendai Darikwa are not part of the squad, after they failed to secure documents for the trip.
But despite their absence, the squad still looks fearsome and Zimbabwe will be favourites to successfully defend the title.
Chidzambga is aware of the expectations and has admitted that the current squad is stronger than the one that clinched the title last year.
However, he is looking beyond this tournament, with his eyes firmly set on the Afcon qualifier in September.
“We are looking beyond the Cosafa tournament, and that is the reason we brought many of these Europe based players, who will be playing in the Africa Cup qualifiers.
Since we are bringing in new players, in the likes of Marshall Munetsi and Alec Mudimu, the team is shaping up well from the look of things, and I’m just hoping that we will have a much stronger side for the Afcon qualifiers,” Chidzambga said after the team’s training session at Yadah Village.
Some of the big names that are already in camp include Munetsi, who plays for Orlando Pirates, Evans Rusike and Wales-based Mudimu.
Stars from last year’s tournament Ovidy Karuru, George Chigova and Talent Chawapiwa also trained yesterday.
“I think we have enough ammunition for us to participate in the Cosafa tournament, and I feel that this team is stronger than what we had last season despite that we are missing some of the European based players we had wanted. We have a reasonably strong squad. Winning is another matter, but, of course, like anybody else, we would like to bring the trophy home,” Chidzambga said.
“As a country, we have won the tournament so many times and obviously, we would be the team to beat, but we are prepared for anything. We also need to fight hard from the first game. Hopefully, we will get to the final.”
The team is expected to leave on Thursday for Polokwane, ahead of their first match on Sunday.
Chidzambga is taking this tournament as an opportunity to prepare his team for the Afcon group G qualifier against Congo in September.
Zimbabwe lead group G after their 3-0 win over Liberia last year, in a group that also has Democratic Republic of Congo.
Group winners and runners up qualify for the finals, to be held in Cameroon next year.