By Eddie Chikamhi
HARARE – Zimbabwe coach Callisto Pasuwa says he had to juggle around carefully to strike a balance in all departments after he axed forwards Talent Chawapihwa and Brian Muzondiwa for the final squad of 23 set to travel to Rwanda for this year’s Africa Nations Championship.
Pasuwa, who had kept the squad a secret after submitting an initial list of 20 players to CAF on last week’s deadline, finally unveiled his travelling squad that is led by CAPS United’s Hardlife Zvirekwi.
The coach was faced with some difficult decisions following a spate of injuries that had left his training squad depleted.
Zimbabwe began their training camp with 32 players but they ended up with 27 after skipper Danny Phiri and four other players had been sent home because of knocks.
However, there were some surprises when former Harare City winger Chawapihwa, who was one of Zimbabwe’s best players at last year’s COSAFA tournament, was among the affected players when the team was announced yesterday.
Another exciting prospect Muzondiwa, who had a good run with FC Platinum in the second half of the season in 2015, was also a notable omission after falling by the wayside together with George Majika of Chicken Inn and Dynamos newboy Tichaona Chipunza.
Pasuwa said the selection was more to do with his tactical approach to the games.
“As a coach I have got my way which I want to play and (selection is) according to their positions and maybe in terms of how we want to field our team when we play against our opponents in Rwanda,” said Pasuwa.
Harare City have provided the bulk of the players after the coach gave the thumbs up to big striker Francisco Zekumbawira, William Manondo and the quartet of new signings — Ronald Chitiyo, Farai Madhananga, Blessing Moyo and Raphael Manuvire.
Champions Chicken Inn and Dynamos have four players each in the squad with the Gamecocks’ latest acquisition, Moses Demera, also getting a place.
There were also places too for Rodreck Mutuma, Joel Ngodzo, Edmore Chirambadare, Elisha Muroiwa, Stephen Makatuka, Bruce Kangwa, Ocean Mushure and Gerald Takwara.
Zvirekwi is the only survivor from the group that played at the last edition in South Africa when Zimbabwe finished fourth.
Pasuwa said many factors were involved in the selection of the team.
His options had already been diminished by the spate of injuries that rocked the preparations, hence his selection also had a bias on players who can comfortably play on more than one position.
The uncertainties caused by the injuries had forced him to submit a list of 20 players on the January 6 deadline.
“Remember most of the seriously injured players left camp I think a week ago and we had some minor knocks to some of the guys who had been training.
“They have been on and off hence those whom we have chosen I think they are better off compared to some of the boys that we have dropped.
“You know what it is, we talked to them this morning (yesterday). I also referred to them on Day one that it’s not the case of saying maybe today you play well and then you are chosen.
“You should also look at how he trained, how he was doing in terms of mental preparedness. Remember we are going for a tournament and we need to have everything in place,” said Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe are in Group D alongside neighbours Zambia, Uganda and West Africa giants Mali. They will play their opening match next Tuesday and then four days later engage CECAFA Champions Uganda, whom they played again at the last tournament in South Africa and drew 0-0.
Pasuwa, although he has not backed down on their target of surpassing a top four finish, is worried by the lack of friendly matches to fine-tune his squad.
Zambia played Angola last Sunday while Uganda had a date with Gabon on the same day.
Milutin “Micho” Sredojevi’s men were scheduled to host Cameroon yesterday in their second practice match.
“That’s one area of concern. We haven’t been playing friendly matches but yesterday (Tuesday) we played Harare City and, as I have said before, there are some players who are very excellent in terms of play when you put them in training but if you put them in game situation he is a different player,” said Pasuwa.
“But I, as a coach, am saying we are going out there to get good results. We are not going there to make numbers.
“We want to do better and hopefully we will reach the stage maybe where people will say we have done better.”
Zimbabwe will leave early Saturday morning, the exact day when the official opening of the tournament takes place.
Team manager, Sharrif Mussa, said they are looking to make the most of the time they arrive in Rwanda to acclimatise as their travel arrangements are not the most ideal.
“This is basically what CAF and the Local Organising Committee have indicated that they will only take responsibility of the team three days before the kick-off of their first match of the group.
“So with us having resources issues and all that (it was not possible).
“We would have loved to go there a bit earlier naturally but, unfortunately, the least is to go on Saturday 16th and let them take care of the rest of the responsibility,” said Mussa.
Zimbabwe CHAN squad:
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze (Chicken Inn), Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Donovan Bernard (How Mine)
Defenders: Stephen Makatuka (CAPS United), Blessing Moyo (Harare City), Bruce Kangwa (Highlanders), Ocean Mushure (Dynamos), Elisha Muroiwa (Dynamos), Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn), Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United), Farai Madhananga (Harare City)
Midfielders: Nqobizitha Masuku (FC Platinum), Ronald Chitiyo (Harare City), Raphael Manuvire (Harare City), Marshall Mudehwe (FC Platinum), William Manondo (Harare City), Gerald Takwara (FC Platinum), Joel Ngodzo (CAPS United)
Strikers: Rodreck Mutuma (Dynamos), Edmore Chirambadare (Chicken Inn), Francisco Zekumbawira (Harare City FC), Knox Mtizwa (Highlanders), Moses Demera (Chicken Inn). The Herald