Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
CZECH-based Zimbabwe international Costa Nhamoinesu is set to end his long absence from national duty and feature for the Warriors when they host Guinea in an African Cup of Nations qualifier after the tall defender committed himself to the assignment yesterday. The Warriors take on the Sylie National (National Elephants) in a crunch Group L qualifier at Rufaro on Sunday in which Zimbabwe are seeking to maintain their perfect start to the campaign for a place at the 2017 Nations Cup in Gabon.
Zimbabwe began their campaign with a fine 2-1 win over Malawi in Blantyre with the Mamelodi Sundowns pair of Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat finding the target. Nhamoinesu, who has rarely featured for the Warriors since moving to the professional leagues of Europe, is one of a galaxy of stars who coach Callisto Pasuwa has called up for the showdown with the West Africans.
But there were indications last night that Pasuwa’s plans to have the training camp get underway had been hampered by the late delivery of air tickets to the foreign-based players to travel from their bases. Sparta Prague defender Nhamoinesu is one such player who reportedly was still to receive both his ticket and official request for release from ZIFA.
But the former Masvingo United man is understood to have underlined his commitment to the Warriors cause this time by electing to buy his own ticket with the hope that the association would then refund him. The 29-year-old defender, who has played European Champions League football with Sparta, is expected to join a host of other European and South Africa-based players who have made themselves available for selection for the crucial game.
Zimbabwe need to overcome Guinea to take their points tally to six and possibly take over sole leadership of Group L, should joint leaders Swaziland fail to win at home against the Flames of Malawi. Pasuwa confirmed last night that he had been in touch with his troops with many indicating that they were ready to fly back home for national duty, but were now waiting to receive the tickets from ZIFA.
“I spoke to almost all the players and they have assured me that they are ready to come and I am just praying that ZIFA manage to send the tickets on time so that they can start coming in tomorrow (today). We would have loved to have them start arriving on Sunday night. “As for Costa, he has said he will buy his own ticket to come, but his club was still to get the letter of release so that they can let him come.
“Knowledge (Musona), Nyasha (Mushekwi), and all the players are ready and just want to get their tickets so that they can come. As for those in South Africa, we had been lucky in that such players like Milton Ncube who is based in Cape Town had already flown to Johannesburg for a game there and he has remained there while waiting for his ticket.
“He is actually staying with Kuda Mahachi.
“So once the tickets issue has been sorted I think we should have everyone coming in, but that does not mean training will not start until they arrive. We have the local players and they have started coming in so whether I have two or five players we will start training at the National Sport Stadium tomorrow morning. But I am happy so far with the spirit being shown by the players when I talk to them,’’ Pasuwa said.
It also emerged that most of the foreign-based professionals are now reluctant to use their own resources to fly home for assignments following a breakdown of trust between ZIFA and the players. It is one area the broke association would have to urgently address given that the qualification marathon is still to even reach the halfway stage.
Pasuwa also revealed that he had called up Dynamos talisman Ronald Chitiyo and exciting ZPC Kariba midfielder Raphael Manuvire to the squad. Former Buffaloes centre-back Liberty Chakoroma who is now plying his trade with Free State Stars is also expected to join the Warriors, but left-back Ronald Pfumbidzai who recently joined Hobro IK in the Danish league will not be part of the squad that will face the Elephants.
Burnley defender Tendai Darikwa will also not be joining the Warriors party amid indications that he, just like Brendan Galloway, has elected to try to break into the England squad. Danish-based winger Quincy Antipas has also been ruled out because of injury. Pasuwa said the withdrawals of such players like Antipas had prompted him to call up Chitiyo and Manuvire.
“We need cover in the midfield area hence the decision to call up Ronald and Raphael. We also hope that we won’t have the misfortune of having too many injuries before the game,’’ Pasuwa said. Despite Guinea having lost their opening qualifier 2-1 to Swaziland on neutral ground in Casablanca, Morocco, Pasuwa has insisted the West Africans deserve to be treated with respect.
A closer look at the head to head record between the two sides shows that the Warriors have only won twice in nine meetings with both of Zimbabwe’s wins having come at home. Three of the clashes ended in goalless draws while the Warriors’ most emphatic win over Guinea was a 3-0 triumph in a Nations Cup qualifier on home soil on September 21, 1995. Pasuwa’s men will be hoping for such a feat when they line up against the Elephants before an expected bumper crowd at Rufaro on Sunday.