Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
GIFTED Mutare born Triangle FC goalkeeper Chang Mariyoni, who is basking in the glory of receiving his maiden senior national team call-up ahead of the regional Cosafa Castle Cup, believes his prayers have eventually been answered.

Warriors’ coach Sunday Chidzambwa insists that his sights are firmly on the resumption of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers scheduled for later this year thus he announced a strong squad for this year’s Cosafa Castle Cup which the veteran gaffer is taking as part of his preparations for Afcon qualifiers.

The Cosafa Castle Cup kicks off from May 27 to June 9 in South Africa with the World Cup set for next month.

Zimbabwe’s next competitive assignment is in September when they travel to Congo for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier second Group G game.

Even though this is a provisional squad, from which the coach will have to select the final line up, the mere recognition of his exploits between the sticks has elated the 24-year old former Elis Gledhill Secondary School goalkeeper, who is now turning out for the Sugar Boys.

“I am happy for being included in the provisional squad. It is a great achievement. I was praying for this and I thank God he heard my prayers. I want to thank my teammates and the coaches because they played a very big role for this to happen also want to thank my manager James Lunga Meya who has been inspirational in my career,” he said.

Young Mariyoni has conceded three goals from the six matches that he has featured for Triangle this season, helping the Tongaat Hullet bankrolled outfit earn 20 points from the 11 matches they have played so far in the 2018 season.

Mariyoni reckons that it is will not be a stroll in the park for him to find his place in the travelling squad as he will make do with stiff competition from the other three goalkeepers in the squad that include Polokwane City’s George Chigova, veteran Witbank Spurs shot stopper Edmore Sibanda and Donovan Bernard of Ngezi Platinum Stars.

“I know it is not going to be easy to be in the final squad. I will do my best and God will do the rest. It is up to the coaches to make the final selection. I am happy to be recognised among many goalkeepers because it shows I have been working hard,” said Marion.

After being warped away by the mucky waters of relegation at the end of the 2017 local soccer season, former Tsholotsho FC goalkeeper Marion together with former Hwange FC’s Delic Murimba joined the Lowveld side – Triangle FC.

Triangle, who finished last year’s campaign on position 9, infused more players into their camp as they came up with a competitive side that has given many opponents sleepless night so far in the season.

However, in coming up with his squad for the Cosafa Castle Cup, Chidzambwa blended youth and experience retaining the majority of players, who beat Liberia 3-0 last year in their Group G opener courtesy of a Knowledge Musona hat-trick.

Musona heralds a list of stars that also includes Belgium-based Marvellous Nakamba, Khama Billiat, Tino Kadewere, Costa Nhamoinesu, George Chigova and Evans Rusike among other players, who will be available for the Cosafa Castle Cup.

Also in the squad are England-based Tendayi Darikwa of Nottingham Forest, Macaulley Bonne of Leyton Orient and Admiral Muskwe of Leicester City, who have already heed calls to play for the Warriors after featuring in international friendly matches last year.

Some of the local players, who made it into the provisional squad are goalkeeper Donovan Bernard, Liberty Chakoroma both from Ngezi Platinum Stars, Byron Madzokere from Yadah, Harare City’s Takudzwa Chimwemwe and Jameson Mukombwe from FC Platinum among others.

Zimbabwe, who are the defending champions after winning last year’s tournament by beating neighbours Zambia 3-1 in the final, will begin their title defence in the quarter-final stage after being handed a bye.

Chidzambwa’s charges will take on winners of Group B, which comprises Botswana, Angola, Mauritius and Malawi on July 3 unlike in previous years where the Warriors had to start the competition in the group stages.

Group A consists of Madagascar, Mozambique, the Comoros and Seychelles with the winner set to meet South Africa in the quarter-final.

The other quarter finals pairings will see last year’s runners-up Zambia take on Namibia while Lesotho have been drawn to face Swaziland.

South Africa and Zimbabwe will meet in the semi-finals of this year’s competition if they advance past their respective first hurdles.

COSAFA 2018 Provisional squad:

Goalkeepers

George Chigova (Polokwane City); Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs); Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum Stars); Chang Mariyoni (Triangle)

Defenders

Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids); Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs); Kelvin Moyo (FC Platinum); Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars); Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars); Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest); Jameson Mukombwe (FC Platinum); Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Harare City); Costa Nhamoinesu (AC Sparta Prague); Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic); Honest Moyo (Highlanders); Adam Chicksen (Bradford city):

Midfielders

Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates); Richard Hachiro (Herentals); Andy Rinomhota (Reading); Kundai Benyu (Oldham Athletic); Abbas Amidu (Entag El Harby); Talent Chawapiwa (Baroka); Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah Stars); Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns); Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu); Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Singida United); Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge):

Strikers

Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende); Evans Rusike (Supersport United); Macaulley Bonne (Leyton Orient); Tinotenda Kadewere (Djurgardens IF); Kelly Lunga (Bonner SC); Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City):