Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter—
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors finally got their preparations for their African Cup of Nations showdown underway when the bulk of their galaxy of stars joined training and the foreign-based players immediately declared that they were banking on home advantage to upstage the West Africans. The Warriors have often struggled against the Sylie National, but the current band believe they could build on their opening day 2-1 away win over Malawi to move a gear up in their quest for a place at the Nations Cup in Gabon in 2017.
As they stepped up their act after a false start on Monday and Tuesday, the Warriors reckoned that home advantage at Rufaro, which they have often turned into a fortress, will be key in securing their second win under Callisto Pasuwa in this campaign. On Tuesday, Pasuwa only had Czech-based defender Costa Nhamoinesu and five locals in training, but yesterday they resembled more of a senior team with players like Partson Jaure, Milton Ncube, Washington Arubi, Cuthbert Malajila, Khama Billiat and Eric Chipeta taking part in training.
Belgium-based forward Knowledge Musona also later arrived in the afternoon and should join his colleagues in training today. Kaizer Chiefs midfield hardman Willard Katsande, Free State Stars defender Liberty Chakoroma, Nyasha Mushekwi and Matthew Rusike, who were conspicuous by their absence, are also expected today.
Once the delay they endured at Rufaro in the morning while logistics over their new kit was being sorted out, the Warriors then got down to business before moving to Gwanzura for the late afternoon session. Mamelodi Sundowns striker Malajila, who has been enjoying scoring form at the Brazilians, said it was imperative that they win at home.
“The good thing is we are playing at home and everyone is almost here. But we are looking forward to the game, the last game is now water under the bridge we won, but now we are playing at home and we want three points more than anything else. “We don’t care how we will get them, but we want three points. Every game is a tough game, even when we went to Malawi, but we know Guinea they are a very good side, but we are at home and we just want three points.
“As for the preparations, we will have to focus from now. We would have wanted to meet maybe on Monday, but there is nothing we can do as the situation is beyond our control,” said Malajila. Ajax Cape Town midfielder Milton Ncube, who is also back into the squad having last featured for the Warriors team against Tanzania, believes that Sunday’s game is crucial to their Nations Cup hopes.
“I think it is a very important match because it is a home game of which I think we must get all the three points. We had a good result in the first match against Malawi and I think if we collect maximum points again we would be getting somewhere. “With football there is always pressure and it is a matter of how you handle it as there is always pressure. I feel we have a strong squad to qualify for this AFCON.
“This is the only competition we have left now considering that we are out of the World Cup qualifiers, we should give the people of Zimbabwe something to smile about,” Ncube said. Ncube is also enjoying his game with the Urban Warriors who last weekend secured a date in the prestigious MTN 8 Cup final against Kaizer Chiefs. “The season has just begun and we are doing well. We have played three games now and we are on second position, we are in the MTN final and I have played in three of those matches.
“I have been playing quite well and I haven’t been fully fit, but I think I have done well,” he said. Former Hwange defender Eric Chipeta said they are focused on the new game.“We have forgotten about the first Africa Cup of Nations game against Malawi and have to concentrate on the second game against Guinea. “We are home and we have to put them under pressure for the whole 90 minutes.
“I think there is still time to jell as a team as most of the players are playing at their clubs and I believe the time left is enough for us to prepare,” he said. The Chippa United man said he was also having a good start at his club. “I can say I have been in the best form of my life. I have played all the three games and I have assisted and scored in the last game, I think I am in good form,” he said.
Goalkeeper Washington Arubi, who returns to the national team fold after a one year absence, warned that the Warriors needed to be wary of Sylie National. “We are looking forward to win this game especially playing at home, it builds our confidence and as we know we won our first match we want to continue with that. “I don’t know if I am going to be the first choice but I am happy to be back for the national team and I was looking forward to another call up.
I really appreciate the good work all the goalkeepers are doing and have to carry on. “My form is high. We played three games and lost our previous game but as an individual I am happy with my performance in all the three matches I have played but I have to keep on working hard,” he said. The former Dynamos goalkeeper said they will not let the poor preparations affect them as they also understand the problems the mother body is facing.
“As players we have to overcome some of these situations because it is our job. We know things are not fine and we have to understand that, but we have to keep our heads high and make sure everything is fine until Sunday,” Arubi said. Coach Pasuwa said he would try to fortify his defence first given that they will be trying out new combinations. “When you are building a team you start from the defence. We were trying to see the combinations, and the way we want to play when we play against Guinea, as you know it is our first time and some of these boys haven’t played together.
“Last time (Malawi), we had a centre back partnership of Jangano ( Justice) and Partson Jaure and we also had Ronald Pfumbidzai and Blessing Moyo in defence. So we are starting afresh having new faces in the defence and need to reorganise hence we were practicing building from the back. “We have utility players on the central defence, remember, Eric who can play on the right, we have Jaure, who also can play on the right, maybe it is on the central area where we need cover, but if Liberty Chakoroma comes it would be okay for us.
“We might say we need to attack with four, five, six guys going offensively then we will have four balancing. “We can say maybe we want the full backs to go and have those defensive midfielders being on the central position and the two central defenders at the back. “So we would be having four centralising and the six moving going forwards,” he said.
“We are preparing, we are playing at home and I think we need to do better and complacency mustn’t creep on us. Remember, we won in Malawi , if we can win in Malawi, we can also be beaten here in Zimbabwe, if we go thinking it is easy we will be surprised,’’ Pasuwa said.