Warriors skipper and first-choice goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has been certified fit and should be in goal for today’s decisive 2013 African Cup of Nations final qualifier first-leg match against Angola at Rufaro Stadium.
Team doctor Nick Munyonga confirmed the news to The Sunday Mail yesterday evening.
“Kapini passed the late fitness test that we had said we will subject him to. He actually trained with the rest of the team in the afternoon session and did not complain of any more pain,” Munyonga said.
Kapini’s availability must come as sweet music to coach Rahman Gumbo who had looked set to go into battle with a debutant goalkeeper.
The AmaZulu goalminder has been the hero of Gumbo’s squad in the qualifiers, making top-drawer saves that have kept Zimbabwe’s sheet clean in the last home and away games.
Gumbo was hammering home the importance of taking a healthy lead to Luanda all week and told journalists on Friday that he is confident the boys will clear the final hurdle on their way to a third appearance at the Nations Cup to be hosted by South Africa in January.
“We are on the verge of qualifying for the Nations Cup, and that makes this game a very crucial one. It is very important that we carry a healthy lead to Luanda of, say, two or three goals without conceding.
“The players that I have in camp have shown that they are hungry for success, that they are committed to the national cause and this is really what I want for such a high-stakes match,” Gumbo said.
Gumbo added that inasmuch as he would have wanted all the players he had called into camp available for selection, he is not worried by the absentees, and those at his disposal have expressed their readiness to deliver in whichever roles they are assigned.
“No player is written on their forehead that they should play a particular position. We will field them according to what the situation demands and where we think they will be more effective,” argued Gumbo in reference to Archieford Gutu, who looks set to be slotted in as an anchorman in the absence of midfield workhorse Tinashe “Father” Nengomashe.
Assistant coach Peter Ndlovu backed Gumbo.
“If as a technical team we feel that Gutu is going to be more effective and give us an edge, that is where he is going to play.
“Even during the match we can make changes to the structure of the team without necessarily making substitutes to suit the demands of the game.”
Ndlovu, the most venerated Warriors player of all time, also underlined that Zimbabwe will need to rely more on teamwork rather than individual brilliance if they are to outwit the Palancas Negras.
Gumbo’s training sessions during the week indicated that Gutu is likely to get midfield company from on-fire Dynamos midfielder Denver Mukamba while skilful wideman Khama Billiart is set for a role on the right side of midfield.
Warriors returnee and pacey winger Quincy Antipas, who appeared razor-sharp at training, is set for a place on the left to complete a four-man midfield of proven ball players.
While the quartet’s ability to wreak havoc when in possession cannot be questioned, it is their defensive abilities that could bring a sour taste to fans’ mouths.
However, Black Leopards’ Abbas Amidu has been making a strong case for inclusion in midfield and might force Gumbo to have a reshuffle and re-strategise in his engine room.
In justifying the absence of a grafter in the middle of the park, Nsukuzonke, as the second assistant coach is fondly referred to, was tactful. “Technically the Angolans are good and can be very dangerous when in possession, so the strategy is to keep the ball away from them, and without the ball, which is the weapon of the game, they won’t hurt us,’’ he said.
“We will also try to put the ball on the ground with the hope that they will struggle to get into the groove with their tall guys.”
Powerful Orlando Pirates forward Takesure Chinyama is certain to lead the hunt for the much-needed goals in the absence of chief gunslinger Knowledge Musona. A proven goal poacher in his own right, Chinyama will probably be partnered upfront by Rodwell Chinyengetere, who started the last tie against Burundi, or by PSL leading goal scorer Nelson Maziwisa.
But Ndlovu, who is the team’s all-time leading goalscorer, challenged every player who will be on the pitch to do their best and also chip in with goals.
“It’s a team game, anybody can get goals and we cannot just rely on Takesure or the strikers alone, anybody else can score,” Ndlovu said.
At the heart of defence, no-nonsense Carlington Nyadombo, who appears to have found a home alongside Esrom Nyandoro, will be bidding to outfox former Manchester United and now Real Valladolid striker Manucho Goncalves. Vusa Nyoni and Noel Kaseke look certain to occupy the left and right- back position, and their ability to join attack when duty calls is a recipe for disaster for the Angolans.
The visitors’ talisman, Manucho, told The Sunday Mail at the Holiday Inn yesterday that his team was ready for the Warriors’ challenge.
“We are very much ready for the challenge, otherwise there is no point in us being here in the first place.”
Coach Gustavo Ferrini refused to entertain local journalists, saying doing so will give the Warriors an advantage.
“We don’t want to comment much before the game otherwise we will give away a lot of information to our opponent,” said Ferrini.
The teams lock horns in the second leg set for October 12 in Luanda, which Zimbabwean fans hope will be a mere formality.
T Kapini, C Nyadombo, E Nyandoro, V Nyoni, N Kaseke, A Gutu, D Mukamba, K Billiart, Q Antipas, T Chinyama, R. Chinyengetere