By Augustine Hwata
WARRIORS coach Ian Gorowa and his technical crew were yesterday sweating over the fitness of skipper Masimba Mambare ahead of their departure for Zambia for the African Nations Championships qualification decider in Ndola on Saturday.
The Warriors had earlier planned on leaving tonight, but they will now fly out early tomorrow for the crunch battle in which they are hoping to upstage 2012 African Champions Zambia and book a place at next year’s CHAN finals in South Africa.
Chipolopolo were in Harare last Sunday and restricted the Warriors to a goalless draw, but Gorowa and his men are still confident of turning the tide on their hosts at Levy Mwanawasa Stadium.
But the Warriors received a huge scare in their preparations after Highlanders forward — Mambare — picked up an injury on his right knee during the team’s training session at Gwanzura yesterday morning.
Mambare watched the rest of the training session from the sidelines and also sat out the second phase of the practice, a swimming session at Les Brown around midday.
The Warriors did not train in the afternoon with their coaches using the opportunity to review video footage of last Sunday’s game as well as the Cosafa final against Chipolopolo played in Ndola last month.
Although there was genuine concern over Mambare’s knock, team manager Patrick Mutesva said they were not pressing the panic button yet over their class leader.
“He picked up a knock during a tussle for the ball at training. At the moment, he is walking with a limp and the doctors are going to assess him further. I hope that he will be able to recover and make it into the team for the crucial leg.”
Mutesva said the team doctors would have another look at the Bosso talisman today before advising Gorowa and his lieutenants on the player’s fitness.
Mambare scored the Warriors goal in their 1-1 draw against Mauritius in the CHAN first round, second leg tie, but he failed to reproduce the same magic as he was off colour against Chipolopolo last Sunday, with FC Platinum’s Ali Sadiki being introduced as his replacement in the second half.
Although there are high hopes that Mambare would have recovered by the time the Warriors go into battle, Chicken Inn striker Tendai Ndoro has now been ruled out after he left camp to attend another trial stint in South Africa.
Ndoro had first tried his luck at Bidvest Wits but it is understood that the striker is now heading to Mpumalanga Black Aces and Gorowa has since recruited FC Platinum’s Donald Ngoma to fill in the gap.
Ngoma joined camp in the early hours of yesterday and trained with the rest of the players at Gwanzura while earlier on Monday, the coach had roped in Bosso leftback Bruce Kangwa and midfielder Kuda Mahachi of Chicken Inn.
Gorowa has had to grapple with players leaving the Warriors camp for trials in South Africa and How Mine’s Simba Sithole has also been ruled out after failing to return from AmaZulu.
The Warriors coach now has three natural strikers — Nelson Maziwisa, Dominic Chungwa and Ngoma — for the big battle in the Copperbelt.
“Since Simba Sithole left, we have had no news on him and he will not be considered for this game. Maybe we will see on the next assignments,” said Mutesva.
The Warriors face an uphill task as they seek to either beat or force a scoring draw against Zambia in the final qualifier on Saturday.
Gorowa is hoping that the pressure of playing away from the home fans will work in their favour, but history this year, has not been encouraging to the Warriors, who have failed to beat their neighbours in three meetings.
Maziwisa was one such player who struggled to cope with the pressure at home as well as that of trying to impress SuperSport United assistant coach Kaitano Tembo.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s coach Harve Renard is upbeat about his team’s chances of progressing to the CHAN finals in South Africa next year, at the expense of the Warriors.
The Frenchman — who is seeking to add the CHAN title to the African Cup of Nations and Cosafa Cup achievements — took the team through their paces at Sunset Stadium in Lusaka, on Tuesday before they left for Ndola.
“We have to finish what we started about six months ago with the local players. We have to get the qualification for the CHAN in South Africa. We did very well and now playing at home, we have to do better against Zimbabwe and qualify,” Renard told the media.
Renard said Chipolopolo feel motivated to reach the CHAN finals after winning the Cosafa Cup when they dethroned Zimbabwe following a 2-0 win.
“After winning the Cosafa Cup it will be perfect to qualify for the CHAN. We are working very hard and we are going to work hard in Ndola,” Renard said.
Renard said playing on the natural surface in Ndola would be easier for his players, whom he said struggled for balance on the artificial turf at Rufaro, where many visiting teams have found to be a difficult hunting ground.
“Playing on the grass will be better for us,” said Renard.