Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Zimbabwe Warriors troop into the artificial turf of the Complexe Omnisports de Stade Martyrs in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo for a crucial Group G Total Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the hosts this evening keen to avoid a defeat.
Zimbabwe top the group by virtue of a superior goal difference over the DRC and know that back to back wins over the Central African giants will almost guarantee them a ticket to the continental finals in Cameroon next year as group winners or runners up.
The squad has so far held three training sessions at the match venue with team manager Wellington Mpandare revealing that some players initially struggled due to the artificial pitch although there has been much improvement.
“We trained on the match venue on Wednesday and Thursday from 3-5PM and today (yesterday) we will train from 6.30PM (7.30PM Zim time) which is the time the game will start. The players were struggling a bit on the artificial turf but we hope to cope because we have had three days of training,” said Mpandare in an interview from Kinshasa yesterday.
He also said the media has been giving the team almost a total blackout with local journalists there not even visiting the team’s training sessions for interviews.
“I wouldn’t talk much about the reception because people here are just reserved, we also haven’t seen any journalists coming to our training sessions. Its been quiet and I don’t know why maybe they are scared of Zimbabwe or something,” he said.
The DRC will be in Harare for the return leg next Tuesday. Today’s encounter will be handled by Moroccan officials, Redouane Jiyed, Yahya Nouali and Essam Benbapa while the return leg on Tuesday will have Egyptian nationals Ghead Zaglol, Ahmed Hossam Eldin and Tahssen Abo El Sadat Bedyer.
After the DRC encounters, Sunday Chidzambwa’s men will be left with an away trip to Liberia on November 16 before wrapping up their campaign with a home tie against Congo on March 22 next year.
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs)
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars)
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Danny Phiri (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvellous Nakamba (Club Brugge KV)
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Knowledge Musona (RSC Anderlecht), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows).