By Tadious Manyepo
Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, has injected some fresh blood, including players who featured in the miserable campaign at the CHAN finals in Cameroon, in his 33-man Warriors squad.
The players will prepare for the decisive 2021 AFCON qualifiers, against Botswana and Zambia, next month.
The Warriors travel to Botswana on March 22, for the penultimate round of their group fixtures against the Zebras, before wrapping up business with a home tie against bitter rivals Zambia, at the National Sports Stadium, seven days later.
The Southern African trio are vying for one remaining slot, to qualify for the AFCON finals, as Algeria have already sealed their place at the tournament, scheduled for Cameroon in January next year.
With pressure mounting on the under-fire gaffer, who is yet to win a match in the six games he has taken charge of the Warriors since his appointment over a year ago, the Croat has decided to inject some fresh blood into his team.
Loga has already submitted his list of players, to national teams’ general manager, Wellington Mpandare, who yesterday said he was already working on sending invitation letters, to the clubs of those selected.
“I have already selected the 33-man squad to do duty against Botswana and Zambia in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers next month,’’ said Loga.
“The team will be announced in due course.
“The manager (Mpandare) is now working on getting the players, from their teams.
“He is already sending letters to the players’ respective clubs and we called 33 players. Most of those players played the last qualifying games against Algeria (in November last year.)
“We have also included some players, from the squad which we had at the CHAN tournament in Cameroon, most of them are Under-23 players.
“The young players will be part of the squad, as we start preparing them for huge national assignments.
“We just have to gel the senior players, and these youngsters, who are obviously the future.”
While Loga did not name the players, he provided a hint when he praised the young players who featured in the last CHAN Group A match against Mali.
The Warriors lost that dead rubber, 0-1, while the West Africans went all the way to reach the final of the tournament, where they lost to champions Morocco.
“The youngsters, who I played in our CHAN last match against Mali, put in a good shift,’’ said Loga. ‘’We lost to one of the tournament favourites but the boys really worked hard.
“The Under-23 players, including goalkeeper Nelson Chadya, Andrew Mbeba, Shadreck Nyahwa and even Farawo Matare were very impressive.
“This is the future of the national team.”
He also revealed he has kept faith with most of the regulars, who featured for the Warriors, in the back-to-back AFCON qualifiers against the Desert Foxes.
“Save for a few names, the rest of the players we are calling for the double assignments, against Botswana and Zambia, are those who played the back-to-back ties against Algeria last year.”
Zimbabwe are in second place, on five points, a single point ahead of Botswana, with Zambia bottom of the table.
Any of the three countries can still book the ticket to accompany the Algerians to the AFCON finals.
Loga’s men were beaten in Algiers before forcing a come-from-behind to force a 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium, four days later, in their last two qualifiers.
Botswana coach, Adel Amorouche, yesterday announced a 30-man squad, composed mainly of home-based players, who will go into camp to prepare for their matches against the Warriors and Algeria.
The Zebras have a tough assignment in Algeria, after their battle against the Warriors, but — with the African champions having already qualified for the Nations Cup finals — there is a chance the Algerians will rest some of their star players like Riyad Mahrez.
Such a scenario could provide a window of opportunity for the Zebras.
But, if Botswana lose at home to Zimbabwe, in the next round of fixtures, and Chipolopolo also go down to the Desert Foxes, then the final round of matches will just be dead rubbers.
Those two sets of the results will be enough to take the Warriors to their third straight Nations Cup finals. The Herald.