Makomborero Mutimukulu – Sports Editor
FORGET Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa’s football propaganda, this is a defining month of March for Warriors coach Kallisto Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe’s bid for a third Africa Cup of Nations dance will be put to the test when the Warriors step up to face Swaziland twice in four days.
And all eyes are on Pasuwa.
After a disastrous Africa Nations Championship in Rwanda the national team gaffer is under pressure to deliver and does not need reminding that a coach is as good as his last game.
There will be a case for him to be fired, even if Chiyangwa postures otherwise, if his men fail to do the business in the back-to-back matches against Sihlangu on Good Friday and Easter Monday.
Probably with the politician in him overpowering the football administrator, Chiyangwa recently declared Pasuwa would remain the Warriors coach as long as he was Zifa boss.
“The contract we have given the coach is forever. As long as I am Zifa president, he will remain our coach,” declared Chiyangwa soon after the coach signed a two-year contract after the disaster in Rwanda.
Maybe two years is forever in PC’s book.
However, Pasuwa would be naïve to take Chiyangwa’s word, for whatever it is worth, and start believing that results will not have a bearing on how long he lasts in the job.
Football is not that simple.
As he finalises the squad he will call up for the Sihlangu mission, Pasuwa has tonnes of pressure weighing on his shoulders.
A poor outing at Chan saw serious questions being raised about his abilities, or lack thereof.
In his defence, the Warriors coach clung to the fact that he ferried rookies to Rwanda and came just short of blaming everyone but himself.
Now Pasuwa has a free hand.
He can call up any Zimbabwean he fancies because the Afcon qualifiers do not have player restrictions like Chan which is set aside for those plying their trade in their domestic leagues.
Dynamos goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva was confirmed as the nation’s number one after the Rwanda farce but it will be interesting to see the other goalies Pasuwa will call up.
How Mine’s Donovan Bernard and Chicken Inn’s first choice Elvis Chipezeze also made the trip to Chan and should be expecting caps.
However, George Chigova’s form across the Limpopo will be difficult to ignore and one among the Bulawayo-based pair might have to be sacrificed.
Chigova has missed just four of Polokwane City’s matches this season and the former Dynamos goalie believes he has his groove back.
“Getting an extended run in the team has restored my confidence levels and I am beginning to feel the way I used to feel during my days at Dynamos … feeling like am unbeatable,” said Chigova.
A call up for Washington Arubi is a long shot and it has nothing to do with the howler which gifted Guinea their opening goal at Rufaro on September, 6 last year.
The University of Pretoria goalie has been conceding plenty in the Absa Premiership and has just recovered from a shoulder injury that kept him out for two weeks.
Personnel to man the rearguard will most likely comprise Sparta Prague’s Costa Nhamoinesu, the South Africa-based pair of Eric Chipeta and Partson Jaure, Caps United’s Stephen Makatuka and Hardlife Zvirekwi as well as Chicken Inn’s Lawrence Mhlanga.
Milton Ncube, who played at left-back in the one-all draw with Sylie Nacional, is injured but there is no shortage of personnel there with Devine Lunga in fine form for Chicken Inn and Onismo Bhasera playing regularly for Bidvest Wits in South Africa.
Nhamoinesu is slotting in at left-back for his Czech club and could be an option, although Pasuwa believes his size, experience and leadership better serve the cause at centre-half.
Holding midfielder Marvellous Nakamba is developing fast at Vitesse in The Netherlands, featuring 22 times in central midfield and once as a right-sided midfielder this season.
The 22-year-old also has a goal – a long-range effort against De Graafschap – and one assist on his 2015/16 stats chart.
The Bantu Rovers product is primed for a Warriors recall and should battle it out for a place in central midfield with skipper Willard Katsande, Danny Phiri and FC Platinum’s Gerald Takwara.
On the offensive side of things Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona and Mathew Rusike have been finding the back of the net for their respective clubs.
Billiat has scored 10 in 19 matches for Mamelodi Sundowns, Musona has 11 from his 28 matches for his Jupiler League side Oostende while the powerful Rusike has found the net four times in preseason friendly matches for IF Helsingborg in Sweden.
Unlike Billiat who is in love with the viral Dab celebration, Rusike is not signing off his goals in that manner and took to Twitter last week to express his reservations about the celebration routine.
“People must stop this Dab nonsense now, (I’m) not about it and never been about it,” tweeted the 25-year-old former Kaizer Chiefs man.
Gaffer to name his Warriors
KALLISTO PASUWA is on Tuesday expected to announce the squad that will play Swaziland in back-to-back Group L 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The Warriors are away to Swaziland on Easter Friday – March 25 – before hosting Sihlangu on March 28.
Pasuwa is expected to meet his assistants, Saul Chaminuka, Nation Dube and Richard Tswatswa, today to finalise team selection.
The Warriors are joint Group L leaders with coach Harris “Madze” Bulunga’s men on four points, but Sihlangu are better placed by virtue of having scored four times compared to the Warriors’ three goals.
Team manager Sharif Mussa confirmed that the eagerly anticipated announcement would come on Tuesday, followed by camping which is scheduled to begin on March 20.
“We are expecting the coach to name the squad on Tuesday or at least Wednesday at the latest. We expect the boys to troop into camp on March 20 after their weekend fixtures, with training beginning the next day.
“The coaches are definitely happy with the rich vein of form most of our players are in but what is expected of them is consistency because club football is different from international football,” said Mussa.
Pasuwa was largely expected to have already named his men for the Easter double-header but the record-breaking coach reportedly delayed doing so to allow a round-table with his assistants.
“The coach will meet his support staff to finalise the squad then submit his preferred list to Zifa,” said an official who declined to be named.
With Pasuwa’s men not keen on hosting Swaziland on the hard surface at Rufaro, Zifa have invited the Confederation of African Football to inspect and certify the refurbished National Sports Stadium.
Swaziland also have their own headache over the match venue as their only CAF-certified stadium, Somhlolo, has been booked for church services over the Easter holiday.
The National Football Association of Swaziland is negotiating to have the match played at Somhlolo.
“We have already requested to have the stadium on the day seeing that Somhlolo is the only internationally approved stadium we have in the country,” NFAS chief executive Frederick Mngomezulu told the Swazi Times last week. We are positive we will be able to use the venue, especially when considering the magnitude of the game.”
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