The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE coach Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic remains a defiant man against the adversity brought by the absence of key players and believes whichever Warriors he will send into battle in their final Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers will complete the job.
Loga, still chasing his first win as Warriors coach, has seen his plans being wrecked by a combination of injuries to key players like star forward Khama Billiat and Prince Dube and the non-availability of the Europe-based stars because of travel restrictions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 55-year-old Croat, however, told The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday that he was confident that whichever side he will have at his disposal for the trip to Francistown for a date against Botswana on March 25 and the home assignment against Zambia in Harare four days later, should be able to deliver the results.
Loga’s men lie second behind African champions Algeria in Group H with five points and need to avoid a slip-up in order to secure the remaining qualification spot from the pool.
He is however, under no illusions as to the impact the absence of such players like Billiat will have on the Warriors’ aspirations.
Kaizer Chiefs talisman Billiat suffered a leg fracture in January which saw him being ruled out of action for two months, but had remained hopeful of recovering in time for the Warriors’ two crucial qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia.
Loga had already been told that he cannot have Tino Kadewere due to the restrictions imposed by the French authorities which require players to go into isolation centres upon return from international duty.
And when Chiefs confirmed that Billiat would not be ready for action in time for the Warriors matches, it added to Loga’s growing woes.
“For sure Khama Billiat is a player we will miss a lot. His presence means a lot for us, it is a big blow for the team,” said Loga.
Despite the blows coming thick and fast in the build-up to the qualifiers, the Croat remains optimistic of the back-up plan he has in place.
“Again it’s not only Khama, we also have some problems with players who are coming from England. It means five or six stars that should be on the field will not be with us… that is the reason we have Plan A, B and C.
“This is a situation we couldn’t do much about, we have to focus on the players we have. I am very sure that the players that will be at our disposal will be ready to play, give their best and represent Zimbabwe properly.
“We have to put the smiles back on the faces of Zimbabwe football lovers, we will try our best. We are facing some problems but we are trying to solve the problems and we are hoping we will do it. I am confident that the players that will represent the country will do it in a way that will make our target successful,” said Loga.
The Warriors coach was reminded on Friday night how much he will miss Kadewere when the striker rose from the bench to help secure a point for his French Ligue 1 side Olympic Lyon in their clash against Stade de Reims.
Kadewere grabbed a last-gasp equaliser as they dropped two precious points in the Ligue 1 title race in a 1-1 draw at Marshall Munetsi’s Reims.
Munetsi, who is also a huge doubt for the Nations Cup qualifiers, played the entire game for Reims.
Substitute Kadewere cancelled out Mathieu Cafaro’s first-half opener two minutes into stoppage time to put third-placed Lyon on 60 points from 29 games behind Paris St Germain on goal difference and two off league leaders Lille.
PSG welcome Nantes and Lille travel to Monaco today.
Lyon, who extended their unbeaten run away from home to 13 games, will see fourth-placed Monaco move within two points of them if the principality side win today.
In Reims, the hosts deservedly broke the deadlock after 33 minutes when Cafaro unleashed a fine half-volley that flew under the crossbar.
Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta came close to equalising early in the second half but Predrag Rajkovic palmed the Brazilian’s attempt away before denying Kadewere with another great save.
Reims, who are 11th on 35 points, had another great chance through Cafaro but Anthony Lopes’ save kept Lyon afloat.
The visitors were eventually rewarded when Kadewere headed home from Memphis Depay’s cross to salvage a point.
Loga faces another fresh headache should the foreign-based goalkeeping pair of Tatenda Mkuruva and Martin Mapisa also fail to travel.
“We have again the same situation with the goalkeepers. We called the goalkeepers from the USA and Spain, but we have a situation there but again we have Plan A, B and C,” Loga said.
The Warriors training camp started on a low note with Highlanders goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda the lone figure at the squad hotel.
And just like his coach, Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare has also not lost hope of securing the release of some of the European-based stars.
“We keep our fingers crossed and continue to have high hopes that those England-based players and Munetsi will be released for the qualifiers,” said Mpandare.
“We got into camp yesterday, and only Ariel Sibanda has joined camp and we expect more players to start trooping into the camp next Sunday.
“We are confident of all the players coming in next Sunday as we have already sent in their air tickets to travel to Zimbabwe for the two fixtures.
“We have three more players on standby, these are Kelvin Madzongwe, Ralph Kawondera and Qadar Amini.
“If you are to include these players and those we have added in the past weeks we still remain with 25 players to do duty for the country,” said Mpandare.
The Warriors manager said despite everything being in place for the two qualifiers, the Warriors also find themselves in a fix over travel arrangements.
“Our match against Botswana will be played in Francistown, and the challenge we are now facing is travelling.
“There are no connecting flights from Gaborone to Francistown, the travelling restrictions are now proving to be the only major hindrance,” said Mpandare.