By Petros Kausiyo
As the Zimbabwe Warriors prepare to kick-start the defence of their COSAFA Cup title with a cagey quarter-final affair against Botswana today, coach Sunday Chidzambwa has hailed the spirit and attitude of his Class of 2018 and believes it sets the tone for another successful dance with the regional tourney.
The Warriors and the Zebras will bring the COSAFA Cup quarter-final program down with a showdown at the Peter Mokaba stadium (Kick-off 5.30pm).
Last year’s runners-up Zambia and Namibia got the last eight matches rolling at the same venue earlier yesterday and their match was followed by the clash of the Mountain Kingdoms Swaziland and Lesotho.
Hosts South Africa will precede the Warriors against Zebras tie when they meet Group A winners Madagascar.
But there is no doubting that much of the focus will be on the champions Zimbabwe, who are seeking a fresh record of a sixth COSAFA Cup title in the tournament’s 21-year history.
Chidzambwa said although he was expecting a tough outing against a fired up Zebras side that have been the highest scorers in the group stages, he was very satisfied with what he has seen from his squad.
Botswana thrashed jaded Mauritius 6-0 to seal their place in the quarter-finals but Chidzambwa’s men cannot be compared to the Indian Ocean islanders.
The veteran coach said he was particularly impressed by the levels of enthusiasm shown by such COSAFA Cup newboys like Tinotenda Kadewere, Marshal Munetsi, Khama Billiat and Alec Mudimu who have shown a lot of eagerness to win the competition.
“They are so excited to play for their country and I hope they can take that and their form to the pitch.
“We are looking beyond COSAFA so that when we get to the AFCON games again we will have the core of the team and they would have gelled and we will then make some additions.
“Most of the guys are putting 100 percent in training, there is so much discipline in camp and I think we are on the right track.
“I am sure Botswana will come targeting Khama and if that happens it is up to the rest of the team to play off him and capitalise,’’ Chidzambwa said.
The Zimbabwe coach has also been imploring his side to maintain tactical discipline and demanded maximum concentration right to the death.
“Botswana have been sharp in attack in this tournament and we have to very careful and be on the lookout for that.
“It will not be an easy game, Botswana have been playing well and they beat us during the Independence Cup even though we used a team of locals some of whom were intimidated by the stage. So we really have to fight for a good result’’.
Chidzambwa also wants the Warriors to maximise on the freshness that comes with entering the tournament at the quarter-final stage.
“I think to start in the quarter-finals is better. There is enough time to rest and the most important thing to try to win now,’’ Chidzambwa said.
Chidzambwa looks set to unleash a starting side that is rich in attacking qualities with Billiat, Amidu, Rusike, Baroka’s speedy winger Talent Chawapiwa and skipper Ovidy Karuru all being attack minded players.
Orlando Pirates grafter Munetsi is certain for a midfield holding role after impressing the coach during the Four-nation Invitation while Mudimu who plays for Welsh Premier League side CEFN Druids and hailed by Chidzambwa for his organisational skills and tactical awareness will be in the heart of defence.
Polokwane City goalkeeper George Chogva who kept guard as Zimbabwe triumphed in Rustenburg last year should once again get the nod for first choice while Black Rhinos’ Jameson Mukombwe will be hoping he does not suffer the same misfortune of 2017 in which his tournament prematurely ended after just the opening game due to injury.
Kadewere fresh from a brilliant season with his Swedish club Djurgadens also revealed that he was relish I have had a brilliant season but it’s going to be a tough schedule with the season that I have had.
“In cases like these you have to be strong and football is not simple but it is the same whether you are playing for club or country and I want it to be a successful first time to play in the COSAFA Cup.
“I have just won a cup with my club and now I want to win another with my country so we have to pick up our game. All the teams in the tournament have looked hungry and everyone wants to beat Zimbabwe, I saw the Botswana man of the match declaring that their goal was to meet Zimbabwe which shows we are the team to beat but we are aware that everyone at home wants us to come back with the cup,’’ Kadewere said.
Probable Warriors XI:
George Chigova, Jameson Mukombwe, Divine Lunga, Alec Mudimu, Kelvin Moyo, Marshal Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Khama Billiat, Talent Chawapiwa, Abbas Amidu, Evans Rusike The Sunday Mail