After captaining a trailblazing Zimbabwe side that lifted the Cosafa Cup last year, Amazulu midfielder Ovidy Karuru has been handed the armband in the absence of Knowledge Musona as the Warriors hunt the Botswana Zebras in a tricky quarter-final tie in Polokwane, South Africa, today.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Karuru had a dream competition last year setting a new Cosafa goal-scoring record after finishing with six goals to emerge the regional football tournament’s top scorer.
The 29-year-old was unlucky not to walk away with the player of the tournament gong after he was pipped to it by fellow countryman Knox Mutizwa, who is not part of the team this time around
Musona, who recently switched clubs in Belgium moving to giants Anderlecht, was ruled out of Cosafa this year due to injury and coach Sunday Chidzambwa retained his skipper from last year.
Karuru said he was honoured to lead the nation’s quest at Cosafa before challenging his teammates to bring their A-game, starting against Botswana today.
“It’s always an honour to lead the country, but I feel I am just the one wearing the armband because we are all captains of the team, we are all leaders,” the Amazulu forward told Standardsport from Polokwane yesterday.
“The morale is very high and I believe we are not under any pressure.
“We just have to be ready for Botswana because they have done very well so far, so we don’t have to underrate them… we have to bring our A-game. We are promising the nation to fight all out and start defending our Cup starting tomorrow [today].”
Record Cosafa Cup winners Zimbabwe will be chasing to further push their tittle tally to six.
But in neighbours Botswana, the Warriors face a tricky adversary whom they have failed to beat in the last five meetings.
In fact, Zimbabwe have failed to beat Botswana in a decade since they won 1-0 at home in August 2008 in an international friendly.
Since then, the two neighbours have met five times with the Zebras winning four of the encounters, their recent victory coming this year on Independence Day at the National Sports Stadium.
The Warriors have only managed a single draw while they have lost the last three matches.
At Cosafa, Botswana have already accounted for three-time champions Angola in the group stages and have netted nine goals in three matches on course to booking a ticket into the last eight.
It appears to be a more slippery road for Chidzambwa’s men, whose prospects of facing hosts South Africa, who take on Madagascar in the other quarter-final contest, in the semi-finals are high should they pass the Botswana test.
The semi-finals are set for Wednesday, with the final slated for Saturday.
However, Chidzambwa left no stone unturned in a bid to defend the title after he named a star-studded team that will feature in-form Sweden-based forward Tino Kadewere as well as Wales-based Alec Mudimu, among a host of South Africa-based stars.
Karuru leads the group of players based in South Africa that include Khama Billiat [formerly with Sundowns], Orlando Pirates’ Marshal Munetsi, Evans Rusike of Supersport United, as well as the goalkeeping pair of George Chigova and Edmore Sibanda.