By Kevin Mapasure
FIFA yesterday announced the postponement of the 2022 World Cup Africa region qualifiers that were set for next month due to stadia crisis and rising COVID-19 cases on the continent.
Zimbabwe were due to play South Africa at home, and Ethiopia away and coach Zdravco Logarušić had named a strong 30-man squad for the two matches.
The matches will now take place in September. It is the second time that matches have been postponed as they should have taken place in October last year, but were rescheduled due to COVID-19.
In a statement, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) said the decision was made in conjunction with Fifa “taking into consideration the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure optimal playing conditions for all teams”.
This week, Caf released a list of approved stadia and 10 of the 40 participating teams were left without home venues after their facilities were condemned.
Zimbabwe escaped with a stern warning over the state of the National Sports Stadium and had been allowed to host their match against Bafana Bafana between June 5 and 8 at home.
Senegal , Mali, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Liberia, Malawi, Namibia, Niger and Sierra Leone were all left homeless after Caf condemned their stadia as substandard.
In March, a number of African countries were affected by the COVID-19-induced travel restrictions in Europe which resulted in them not being able to utilise some of their players.
Loga had put his cards on the table, giving a hint of what could be on his mind regarding the January Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon.
He said he would use the World Cup qualifiers to come up with a 23-man squad for the Afcon finals and he triggered a fierce tussle for seats on the plane to Cameroon.
The main congested area in the named squad was at left back, where Loga invited four stars, English Championship League’s Brendan Galloway and Jordan Zemura as well as the usually reliable Devine Lunga and the veteran Onisimor Bhasera, both playing in South Africa.
Bhasera held the fort in the match against Botswana, where he paved his way to the Afcon finals after a disciplined performance in the absence of the other trio.
At right back, the Croat called up Tendai Darikwa, Takudzwa Chimwemwe and Caps United’s Carlos Mavhurume.
The midfield area is also bloated with talent, featuring mainly players that have played over the last few years.
Loga named 11 players, among them his favourite Ovidy Karuru, captain Knowledge Musona as well as the Europe-based duo of Marshal Munetsi and Marvelous Nakamba , making a return after missing out on the March Afcon qualifiers.
South Africa-based Butholezwe Ncube as well as Tafadzwa Rusike and Thabani Kamusoko, both based in Zambia, are also in the mix.
New Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos indicated that he would build his team around youthful players and was likely to overlook older players.
“With the information I have received and analysis I made in the last few weeks‚ I think it’s the moment to build a new team in South Africa‚” Broos said.
“I was a bit surprised when I saw in the selections of the last games that there were so many players who were 30 or more. So I think we have to rebuild the team, a younger team‚ and take the example of Cameroon.
“I did the same there. When you work with young players, they are motivated‚ and hungry to show something.
“So I think that after South Africa did not qualify for the Afcon‚ this is the moment to start to rebuild a younger team‚ which may have some difficulties to qualify for the next World Cup‚ but will be ready maybe to play an important role one year later in Afcon [2023 in Ivory Coast].”
Goalkeepers: A Sibanda (Highlanders), M Mapisa (Zamora CF) T Shumba (Nkana)
Defenders: A Mudimu (Ankaraspor), D Lunga (Lamontville Golden Arrows), T Darikwa (Wigan Athletic), T Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor), J Dzingai (Nkana), J Zemura (AFC Bournemouth), O Bhasera (SuperSport United), T Chimwemwe (Nkana), B Galloway (Luton Town), C Mavhurume (Caps United)
Midfielders: M Munetsi (Stade de Reims), B Ncube (Amazulu), O Karuru (Black Leopards), M Nakamba (Aston Villa), K Mahachi (SuperSport United), K Musona (KAS Eupen), K Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), P Chikwende (Simba SC), T Kamusoko (Zesco United), K Nadolo (Dynamos), T Rusike (Zesco United)
Strikers: T Kadewere (Lyon), D Moyo (Hamilton Academical), P Dube (Azam), A Muskwe (Wycombe Wanderers), K Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), T Dzvukamanja (Orlando Pirates)
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