By Ricky Zililo
ZIFA is leaving nothing to chance in preparations for the Warriors’ 2022 World Cup qualifiers and has already dispatched call-up letters to foreign-based players’ clubs.
The Warriors are in Group G alongside neighbours South Africa, whom they face in the opening match between June 5-8, former continental champions Ghana and Ethiopia.
Ghana are the best ranked team in the group, seventh in Africa and 49th in the world, followed by 15th-placed South Africa in the continent and 75th in the world.
The Warriors are ranked 24th in Africa and 107 in the world, while Ethiopia are at number 40 in Africa and 140th in the world.
According to qualifier rules, only winners of the 10 groups will advance to the final round of qualifying where they will be drawn into five two-legged affairs to determine the five African sides that will grace the global showpiece in Qatar.
The third and final round of qualifiers are set for November.
The Warriors technical staff hopes the United Kingdom contingent and France-based national team players that missed the Afcon qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia last month will be available for the World Cup qualifiers which will run up to October.
Fancying their chances of qualifying for the global football showpiece for the first time in history, Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare said flawless planning is essential in ensuring the national team’s focus is not distracted.
The Warriors also had flawless preparations for the final group Afcon qualification matches away to Botswana and in hosting Zambia.
They left for Botswana on the eve of the match and returned a day after the encounter to face Zambia in a dead rubber after sealing qualification with a 1-0 win in Francistown.
“We started writing invitation letters immediately after the Zambia game. We’ve also started the process of booking tickets for the players to fly to Zimbabwe from their bases as well as for the Warriors’ trip to Ethiopia. What we are only waiting for are the tentative dates for the fixtures from Caf. We learnt a lot when we planned the Botswana trip and with the support of the Zifa board, I’m sure we will continue to have such flawless preparations because they all want to see the Warriors doing well,” said Mpandare.
“We’re hoping that since most European league seasons are coming to an end, it won’t be a problem to get the players since the matches will be played when they are inactive. We’re also hopeful that Fifa will issue guidelines on player release, which has been changing because of Covid-19,” he said.
For the Ethiopian encounter, he said they were planning to travel at least three days before the game.
“We know that there are some countries that practice dirty tactics by frustrating visiting teams and we will continue being vigilant to avert whatever tricks they might want to use. Remember in Botswana they wanted to ban some of our players based on manipulation of Covid-19 tests, but we picked it up and fought hard.
“The good thing is that when we leave for Ethiopia for the game set for June 13, we will fly out on the 11th, with players set to fly straight to their bases after the encounter. We trust that the Ethiopians will be professional, like we always do and not partake in dirty tricks as they know that they still have to travel to Zimbabwe for the reverse fixture,” he said.
Coach Zdravko Logarusic is expected in the country next week and will be expected to announce the Warriors’ provisional squad for the qualifiers.
Zimbabwe qualified for the second-round of the qualifiers following their 3-2 aggregate win over Somalia.
The Warriors lost the first-leg 1-0 in Djibouti before registering a 3-1 win at home. The Chronicle