THE Warriors might have received a major boost ahead of their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group G qualifier away to Congo Brazzaville next month, with news suggesting the opposition camp is ravaged by injuries to key players including captain Prince Oniangue and his vice, who will both miss the crucial match.
BY HENRY MHARA
Group leaders Zimbabwe travel to Brazzaville on September 9 for a match set for the Massamba Debate Stadium, looking for a win that would enhance their chances of qualifying for the Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon next year.
Sunday Chidzambga’s men will be encouraged by the news coming from Congo ahead of the tie, which shows that their opposition camp has been hit by injuries to regular players, which have seen Oniangue who plays for Caen and is the current skipper of the French Ligue 1 side and his vice Delvin Ndinga, omitted from the team called for camp by coach Valdo Candido.
Candido had called 36 players to camp, comprised of 23 locals and 13 foreign-based stars to prepare for the Warriors clash, but has been forced to exclude his skipper due to an injury, while Ndinga had initially been shortlisted in the squad announced last week, but the former Monaco player pulled out yesterday after picking an injury at his Turkish club Sivasspor.
The Congo coach was also forced to leave out other stars such as striker Dylan Louis who is one of the top scorers in the French Ligue 2 and versatile midfielder Jordan Massengo who plays for Belgian division one side Saint-Gilloise after the duo asked to be excused for this match.
Congo’s local-based players started camp on Saturday and will be joined by their foreign-based counterparts at the weekend.
But even without the key players, Congo still looks a formidable side with some of their players playing in top European leagues.
Some of the few that catches the eye are defenders Marvin Baudry who plays for Zulte Waregem in Belgium and Tobias Badila of AS Nancy in France, Merveil Ndockyt of Spanish side Getafe and Alexandre Obambot who also plays in France’s FC Nantes.
While this should come as good news for Chidzambga and his men, the veteran coach has his own problems ahead of the match, with his camp also blighted by injuries.
Stars such as Marvellous Nakamba, Ovidy Karuru and Costa Nhamoinesu have pulled out of the squad due to injuries, while striker Tino Kadewere was left out as he is also nursing an injury.
China-based Nyasha Mushekwi remains a doubt with a little nag, and will have a scan today to ascertain if he can play in a fortnight, while British-born Zimbabweans, Adam Chicksen and Tendayi Darikwa and Kelly Lunga based in Germany are also set to miss the qualifiers because they are yet to secure Zimbabwean passports.
There is little hope though that the trio could make it after the Ministry of Sports and the President’s Office indicated that they were seized with the matter.
The Warriors technical bench has already made some adjustments to the squad, with the likes of Danny Phiri, Knox Mutizwa and Ronald Pfumbidzai roped in.
United States-based striker Lucky Mkosana has been the other beneficiary of the withdrawals after he was this week drafted into the Warriors squad.
Mkosana, who is the leading scorer for Penn FC, a second division team in the US, says is honoured to be given a chance to earn his first cap for the Warriors.
“It’s something that I always wanted growing up as a kid and I feel like, and my parents too I think, that they are really, really proud for this call up because I know my dad has been hoping that one day it would happen,” Mkosana told his club’s official website.
“And for me, I think it’s the ultimate goal for any professional athlete to be called up and represent their country. So, for me it’s an honour and I’m really grateful for that.”
He added, “The manager called me and asked me if is this is something that I want to do. And then of course and this is something that I’ve always dreamed of and that I couldn’t let this opportunity pass by. And for me, it’s one of those things that I’m going to give it my all and make sure it’s worth it.”
The 30-year old is an Aces Youth Soccer Academy product, where he rubbed shoulders with current Warriors poster boys Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
“We used to play together up front and I think it’s going to be a good reunion, and to see if we stick with the combination, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Zimbabwe lead Group G which also consists of Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia
Congo Brazzaville provisional squad
Goalkeepers: Christoffer Mafoumbi (Blackpool / England), Pavhel N’dzila (GC Star), Chancel Massa (CARA), Giskard Mavoungou (AS Cheminots)
Defenders: Marvin Baudry (Zulte Waregem / Belgium), Tobias Badila (AS Nancy / France), Baron Kibamba (Real Balcomedica Linense / Spain), Fernand Mayembo (Havre AC / France), Dimitri Bissiki (AC Leopards), Théorold Saboukoulou, Varel Rozan, Caroff Bakoua (Black Devils), Julfin Ondongo (AS Otohô), Junior Loembe (La Mancha), Chancy Danga (CARA), Samy Mampempé (CG Star);
Midfielders: Amour Loussoukou (Tunisian Stadium / Tunisia), Alexandre Obambot (FC Nantes / France), Garcia Nkouka (AS Otohô), Ibamba (JST), Harvey Ossetia, Prestige Mboungou (Black Devils), Duval Ngoma (La Mancha), Merveil Ndockyt (Getafe / Spain)
Strikers: Guy Mbenza (La Mancha), Kivutuka Cabwey (CARA), Roland Okouri, Drovely Costode (CG Star), Bercyl Obassi, Matheus Botamba (AS Otohô), Blessed Makouana (Black Devils), Thievy Bifouma (AnkargügüSpor / Turkey), Delarge Dzon (Qarabag / Azerbaijan), Junior Makiessé (Al Ahly Tripoli / Libya), Sylvère Ganvoula (VFL Bochum / Germany).