ZIMBABWE and Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa has singled out the duo of Teenage Hadebe and Marshal Munetsi for special praise following the Warriors’ solid performances in the back-to-back clashes against the Democratic Republic of Congo during last week’s African Cup of Nations soccer qualifiers.

Though generally happy with the level of talent in the Zimbabwe team, which also has the likes of Belgium-based captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, Darikwa felt the defensive players are exceptional talents.

“I am happy that we took four points from these two games.

“We have a group of players that has a mixture of talent and experience. I also think Teenage (Hadebe) and Marshal (Munetsi) are very good players who will achieve great things in future.

“I also enjoyed the warm reception that I received from the players and supporters. The celebrations in the dressing room were great and I am making strides (in) learning Shona,” said Darikwa, who could be seen singing with his teammates in the dressing room moments after defeating the DRC in the first match in Kinshasa.

However, Darikwa expressed his disappointment at missing next month’s penultimate Group G qualifier against Liberia due to suspension.

The 26-year-old is ineligible for the trip to Monrovia, Liberia, on November 16 after picking two yellow cards in the back-to-back ties against the Democratic Republic of Congo. Darikwa was booked in the Warriors’ 2-1 triumph in Kinshasa last Saturday and saw yellow again three days later in the 1-1 draw in Harare.

“I am naturally disappointed to be missing the match, but I am sure the boys will post a positive result in Liberia. It is not about me, but the team.

“We have some exceptional players who can do the job for the country,” he said.

Zimbabwe top the four-team group with eight points, three ahead of the second-placed DRC and four in front of third-placed Congo and basement side Liberia.

The Warriors will seal their place at the June 2019 African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon with a point from their remaining two games, but they might not need that point should their chasing rivals cancel each other out.

They travel to Liberia next month and then host Congo in their last match of the qualifiers in March next year.

DRC and Congo will also be involved in a crucial meeting next month. DRC are second in the group with five points, while Congo and Liberia are tied on four points from as many matches.

Reflecting on his home debut appearance, Darikwa said he was happy that his close family members, that included his grandmother from Harare’s high-density suburb of Mufakose (Mbuya Darikwa), were part of the crowd at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday night.

“I was so happy to get the chance to finally play for Zimbabwe.

“Obviously, playing away from home, my first match eased off the pressure on my part.

“I managed to gel into the team without (any) pressure at all.

“I cannot explain the excitement I felt playing in front of the home crowd in Harare. The fans were great. My relatives, including my grandmother, also got a chance to watch me play and that was a very proud moment for me.

“I also have plans to source football equipment for disadvantaged communities,” Darikwa said.

Though Darikwa will be out of the Liberia tie, coach Sunday Chidzambwa is set to welcome back Wales-based defender Aleck Mudimu and captain Musona from suspensions.

The Warriors coaching department also looks forward to the return to full fitness of Tinotenda Kadewere, Divine Lunga and Evans Rusike. Midfielder Danny Phiri and goalkeeper George Chigova picked up knocks in the last assignment.

Darikwa has also called upon the authorities to speed up the processing of relevant documents of all other foreign-based soccer players of Zimbabwe origin willing to retrace their roots.

The Nottingham Forest defender is the first of the UK-based players, among them Tristan Nydam (St Johnstone), Macaulay Bonne (Leyton Orient), Adam Chicksen (Bradford City), Kundai Benyu (Celtic), and Germany-based striker Kelvin Lunga (SV Rodinghausen), to regularise his documents and become eligible to play for Zimbabwe.

“The current team is very strong, but we need everyone so that we have more depth.

“The paperwork for other players should be sorted out as soon as possible.

“We definitely need players such as (Macaulay) Bonne,” he said.

ZIFA representative in United Kingdom and Europe Marshal Gore said efforts are being done to process the documents of the remaining players.

“I have been in touch with Bonne and we are making arrangements to sort his passport. He is still very keen to play for Zimbabwe.

“We are also working on other players’ documents as well, but it is not as easy as people think. We are also happy with Darikwa’s performance,” said Gore.

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