BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
THE fight for a place in the Warriors final 23-man squad to represent the country at the Afcon finals begins today as training for the premier continental championship begins.
Coach Norman Mapeza named a number of uncapped players and rookies in the bloated squad which has been in a bio-bubble secure environment since Thursday.
Some of the players such as Temptation Chiwunga from JDR Stars in South Africa, teenager Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Shepherd Mhlanga (Chicken Inn) and Tapiwa Sibanda will be looking to be uncapped and raring to gatecrash into the final Afcon squad.
However, these players and a host of locally based players such as Dynamos teenage star Bill Antonio, Highlander defender Peter Muduhwa, Frank Makarati and Godknows Murwira (both Dynamos), among others will have just three days to impress Mapeza.
“The players have been trooping into camp since Thursday and we are going to start training on Sunday (today),” Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare said.
“We don’t have much time to train because of Covid-19. Since we came here we have been in the bubble under very strict conditions and we have had to go through testing as well as an incubation period before we can train.
“But however, we will have the final 23-man squad before we leave for Cameroon on December 29. Only a few European based players and captain Knowledge Musona will link up with the team in Cameroon,” he added.
What it means is that the five, namely Tino Kadewere, Jordan Zemura, David Moyo, Admiral Muskwe and Musona are guaranteed places in the Afcon bound squad.
It only leaves 18 places up for grabs in the next couple of days.
Other foreign based players such as defenders Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu are set to make the team, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Seasoned campaigners such as South Africa based Kuda Mahachi, Takudzwa Chimwemwe, Thabani Kamusoko, Ishmael Wadi, Bruce Kangwa, Onismor Bhasera and Prince Dube are surefire to earn a ticket to the African Safari.
Mapeza and his technical team were forced to name an understrength squad after the withdrawal of several senior players due to injury and other reasons.
Big name players such as Marshall Munetsi, Marvelous Nakamba and Brendon Galloway, who play in European leagues are out injured.
Tendayi Darikwa, who was part of the team that participated in the last championship in Egypt, asked to be excused for the Cameroon edition while Leicester City teenage sensation Tawanda Maswanhise is yet to secure a Zimbabwean passport.
Midfield talisman Khama Billiat called time on his international career last month and it appears Zifa efforts to lure him back for the Afcon finals have hit a brick wall.
The event 2021 Afcon finals which have been rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic will run from January 9 to February 6 and it will be the first time that Mapeza takes the national team to the continental championship.
Zimbabwe are in Group B of the competition alongside giants Senegal, Guinea and fellow Southern African nation Malawi.
The Warriors kickoff their Afcon campaign against Senegal on January 10 before entertaining Malawi four days later and conclude their group campaign with Guinea on January 18.
Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari (FC Platinum), Martin Mapisa (FC Zamora), Talbert Shumba (Free State Stars), Taimon Mvula (Dynamos)
Defenders: Peter Muduwa (Highlanders), Alec Mudimu (Torpedo Kutaisi), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Nkana), Jordan Zemura (AFC Bournemouth), Tapiwa Sibanda (Cranborne), Godknows Murwira, Frank Makarati (Dynamos), Gerald Takwara (Venda Football Academy), Teenage Hadebe (Houston Dynamo), Bruce Kangwa (Azam), Onismor Bhasera (SuperSport United)
Midfielders: Temptation Chiwunga (JDR Stars), Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum), Bill Antonio (Dynamos), Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United), Never Tigere (Azam), Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United), Shepherd Mhlanga (Chicken Inn), Ishmael Wadi (JDR Stars), Panashe Mutimbanyoka (FC Platinum)
Strikers: Admiral Muskwe (Luton Town), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Prince Dube (Azam), David Moyo (Hamilton Academical), Knowledge Musona (Al-Tai), Tinotenda Kadewere (Olympique Lyonnais)