By Grace Chingoma
Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa will today give an indication of the players he wants for the 2017 Nations Cup finals showcase in Gabon when he announces his squad for two high-profile friendly internationals against Zambia and Tanzania.
Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa has secured a friendly international against Chipolopolo on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium and another battle against Tanzania, at the same venue, a week later.
Chiyangwa, who has been in Johannesburg in the past two days tying up the loose ends for the friendly internationals, said he had now secured the matches against Zambia, who are playing in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and Tanzania.
“That is a done deal and it’s good for us to play a country like Zambia, who have won the Afcon tournament before, and have always given us a good run for our money whenever we meet them,” said Chiyangwa.
“They are ranked higher than us and are considered, by the Fifa rankings, to be a stronger football nation than us but we know that our team is getting better and better and that is why we are the only country from Southern Africa who will be in Gabon.
“We have done our part, to get a friendly or two, and it’s now up to the fans to come in huge numbers so that they support their players and also ensure we accrue something from the gates because it’s a very expensive exercise to host a friendly international.
“We are also thrilled that we are playing Tanzania who beat us in the 2015 Afcon qualifiers and have one of the hottest African strikers playing in Belgium, just like us.
“I have already spoken to the coach about the two matches and given him the go-ahead to name his team and the captain Willard Katsande says he is ready to play for his country because such preparations are key.”
With the Premier Soccer League already on break, this week, to pave way for the Chibuku Super Cup final between FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab on Sunday, the international match against Zambia will not affect the PSL programme.
This weekend has been reserved on the Fifa calendar for official and friendly matches.
And with Zimbabwe not involved in the World Cup qualifiers, which get underway next weekend, Zifa have moved in to fully utilise the Fifa dates by hosting two high-profile matches.
Zifa acting secretary-general Joseph Mamutse has already written to Zambian FA boss Andrew Kamanga confirming the high-profile friendly international.
“Following your discussion with our president Dr Chiyangwa, the Zimbabwe Football Association do hereby confirm an international friendly match as follows – Date: Saturday, 5th November 2016; Venue: National Sports Stadium, Harare; Kick-Off Time; 1500 Hours; Turf: Natural Grass.
“The Association will provide your team with full board accomodation, local transport and all local requirements while you cover air tickets,” wrote Mamutse.
The two matches will see the Warriors return to action for the first time since they played Guinea in the last Africa Cup of Nations qualifying round in Conakry in September.
Last month the Association put to waste another Fifa friendly match date but Zifa have ensured Pasuwa gets down to serious business with the two matches marking the start of preparations for the Afcon tournament.
The coach will use the two matches to assess all the players he may be considering for the Gabon adventure.
Highly-rated players like Burnley rightback Tendai Darikwa have expressed willingness to be part of the Afcon team and Pasuwa might use the two matches to have a closer look at some of the players who missed out on the qualifiers.
Last week Warriors team manager Sharif Mussa said Darikwa, despite turning down earlier national team call-ups due to different excuses, has reached out to them and indicated he is ready to play for his country at the tournament.
The Zimbabwe technical team have been tracking the 24-year old defender and another England based fullback Brendan Galloway, who appears to have made his mind to play for England after receiving call-ups to the Three Lions Under-21 team.
Some of his regular forwards appear in good form with forwards Knowledge Musona, Nyasha Mushekwi and Mathew Rusike banging in those goals On Sunday, Rusike was on target for Helsingborg when they beat Falkenberg 4-1.
Musona has also been getting goals for K.V. Oostende in Belgium while Nyasha Mushekwi recently finished as the second best goal scorer in Chinese League One after scoring 19 goals in his debut season.
Neighbours Zambia anchor the bottom of their World Cup qualifying group which also have Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria.
They lost the opening qualifier against a star-studded Nigerian side that included Arsenal’s Alez Iwobi and Manchester City’s Kelechi Iheanacho who scored in that 2-1 victory for the Super Eagles. Only Nigeria and Zimbabwe have beaten Zambia in an international match in Ndola since 1969. Chronicle