By Eddie Chikamhi
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa has thrown his weight behind Knowledge Musona and urged the talismanic forward to put behind the frustrations of having little game time at his Belgian club Anderlecht and continue to lead Zimbabwe’s charge for a place at the 2019 African Cup of Nations.
Musona is set to return to the Warriors fold in their penultimate Group G qualifier against Liberia on Sunday after missing their last assignment against Democratic Republic of Congo because of suspension.
The match will kick-off at 6pm Zimbabwean time at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia.
Musona is currently having an unhappy spell at Anderlecht where he has been reduced to some cameo roles.
But as he undergoes some of the frustrating moments of his career, Musona yesterday received the backing of his national coach who insisted the talented forward would rise again.
Chidzambwa said he was unfazed about concerns over Musona’s lack of game time and maintained that the national team skipper remained his most valued arsenal.
The Warriors flew to Liberia in batches from their different bases yesterday, with the bulk which includes Chidzambwa, his assistants and the local players leaving Harare for South Africa last night where they were expected to link up with the South Africa-based legion.
They are expected to arrive in Liberia today and will have three days to polish up their preparations.
Chidzambwa and his technical crew, which includes his assistants Lloyd Mutasa, Rahman Gumbo and goalkeepers’ trainer Brenna Msiska were joined by players Rodwell Chinyengetere, Kevin Moyo and Tinotenda Kadewere last night on the first leg of the trip via Johannesburg where they teamed up with the South Africa-based contingent for the early morning flight.
Musona and the rest of the Europe-based players, who include Marvelous Nakamba and Alec Mudimu were expected to fly directly to Monrovia.
Chidzambwa said he was confident his troops, most of whom have been doing well for their clubs of late, would deliver in Monrovia.
But the 66-year old gaffer reserved most if his words for Musona, whom he encouraged to take the challenges he is facing in his stride.
Musona has played a key role in the current qualifiers by scoring four goals for Zimbabwe, including an opening day hat-trick against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium last year.
He, however, seems to have been frozen out at Anderlecht despite his high profile move from another Belgian outfit KV Oostende six months ago.
While it is usually frustrating to a national team coach when your best player is not getting enough game time at club level, Chidzambwa yesterday said he has never doubted the abilities of his captain.
Musona played a pivotal role in the successful campaign for the previous finals in Gabon and is again the leading light in the current qualifiers where Zimbabwe are on the brink of sealing a place for the 2019 finals in Cameroon.
“Knowledge is one of our best players in the team and we expect him as usual to play his role and help us in our assignments, the same way he has been doing.
“It happens in football (that a player may not feature regularly for his club), but he must forget whatever is happening at his club and focus on the job at hand.
“We still have some important games to play and we need him,” said Chidzambwa.
Musona has made eight appearances for Anderlecht, with 15 games played so far in the Belgian Jupiler League.
The 28-year old has one goal to his name after starting in three league games and also making five substitute appearances.
But his reputation with the Zimbabwe national team has been untainted.
Musona is currently Zimbabwe’s top goal scorer and joint second overall in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
He has four goals in the bag, along with Comoros forward El Fardou Ben Nabouhane who plays for Red Star Belgrade of Serbia.
Nigerian Odion Jude Ighalo is the current top-scorer with six goals.
Musona’s hat-trick in the 3-0 triumph over Liberia also meant that he joined an elite clique of Warriors greats who include Peter Ndlovu and Vitalis Takawira who have achieved such a feat before.
Chidzambwa also expressed happiness with the form of most of his players.
The history-making coach lavished praises on most of the players including Marvelous Nakamba, who has acquitted himself well at the top level in Europe after making UEFA Champions League debut with his Belgian side Club Brugge.
Defender Alec Mudimu has also had seals of approval in Wales where he turns out for CEFN Druids.
The 23-year old was named in the Welsh magazine, The Leader, Team of the Week yesterday.
Mudimu scored a goal and set up another in their 3-2 comeback win at Carmarthen in the Welsh Premier League at the weekend.
Just like Musona, Mudimu is also set to return for Zimbabwe after missing the Warriors’ 1-1 draw with DRC at home because of suspension.
It has also been a purple patch on the local front for FC Platinum’s Rodwell Chinyengetere, who was yesterday crowned Player of the Month for October yesterday after he helped the Zvishavane miners to a second Castle Lager Premiership title on the trot.
“It’s good that some of the players have been doing well at their clubs. It is my hope that they will be able to carry that form into the national team. We need the confidence to rub in to everyone else,” said Chidzambwa.
Zimbabwe also welcomed back from injury Kadewere and Evans Rusike to boost Chidzambwa’s central attacking options, while former captain Willard Katsande has been recalled to add grit in the midfield.
The Warriors, however, will miss the services of Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, who is out due to suspension.
Chidzambwa’s men only need to avoid defeat on Sunday to seal their place at next year’s finals to be hosted by Cameroon.
They have eight points in the bag, followed by DRC on five while Congo are third on four points.
Liberia anchor the group, also on four points, but they still have a mathematical chance of qualifying, just like any other team in the group.
“Of course we have done well to reach this stage but we are not yet there. There are still some important games to be played and we have to keep focused.
“Liberia are a different team altogether when they play at home. I think you should have seen it with all the games they have played at home in the qualifiers.
“I also understand they have called some foreign professionals who have not played a part in the previous games, just to stress how serious they are with this game.
“So we expect a tough match and we will prepare accordingly. As we normally do, we have to fight hard for the 90 minutes to get a good result.
“We have to defend well, we have to be tight at the back and also we need to make good use of our scoring chances.
“But like I said, it’s not going to be easy against Liberia. I am sure this is going to be a very different match. We beat them before and obviously they will be motivated playing at home,” said Chidzambwa. The Herald