The Sunday Mail
IN-FORM Warriors star, Jordan Zemura, made his 11th straight start for English Championship side, AFC Bournemouth yesterday, with the roving defender now expected to play a crucial role for Zimbabwe in the World Cup qualifiers.
Zimbabwe play Ghana on Saturday evening, in a Group G encounter at the Cape Coast Stadium before hosting the Black Stars in Harare on October 12.
After struggling in their opening two games against South Africa and Ethiopia, the Warriors are now under pressure to go for broke in the back-to-back games against the Black Stars and salvage a campaign that went horribly off the rails under Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic.
The clueless Croat was eventually axed, but not before there had been a national outcry to fire him after Loga registered just one win in 14 assignments.
With just a point on the board and lying bottom of Group G, the Warriors are under intense pressure to revive their hopes of taking their qualification bid to the wire.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare acknowledged as much last night.
He said the fact that Zimbabwe had surrendered the destiny of their campaign into the hands of their opponents, also meant they could no longer afford any slip-ups.
“We have to go for broke. We are focused on getting back to winning ways, and one thing is that we don’t have the destiny of our campaign in our hands.
“It is no longer just about results because a lot will also depend on how South Africa and Ethiopia play,’’ Mpandare said.
The enterprising manager was by last night however, satisfied to note that he had not received any indications of withdrawals on a day when some of the Warriors internationals were involved in various club duties.
Among them is Zemura, whose stock has risen in the last three months following some superb performances for the Cherries.
The 21-year-old roving left back has scored two goals for AFC Bournemouth, who are targeting a quick return to the English Premier League.
Zemura yesterday featured for his side in their 2-1 win over Sheffield United.
The availability of Zemura, who missed the first two qualifiers against South Africa and Ethiopia due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, should be a major boost for the Warriors.
Zemura, who had decent outings for the Warriors when he last turned out for them in the back to back clashes against Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, is one of the United Kingdom-based legion set to boost the Warriors as they seek to upstage the Black Stars.
The Warriors can also get some inspiration from the fact that Ethiopia came within minutes of claiming at least a point away to Ghana.
There is also renewed hope for Zimbabwe following the appointment of crowd favourite Norman Mapeza, albeit on a temporary basis.
Mapeza will also be happy to call on the services of Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba, Tendai Darikwa and Brendon Galloway who all missed the opening two qualifiers.
Darikwa has also been influential at League One pacesetters Wigan Athletic, and was named captain at the beginning of the season.
Yesterday, the Wigan Athletic skipper led his troops to a 2-0 win over Gillingham who have little known Zimbabwean Gerald Sithole on their books.
Brendan Galloway, who is set to make his Warriors debut against Ghana, helped Plymouth Argyle secure a point in the 2-2 draw away to Lincoln City.
The Warriors anchor Group G with a single point, three behind log leaders South Africa.
Only the group winners advance to the final round of qualifiers to determine Africa’s five representatives at the global soccer showcase in Qatar next year.
While Mapeza welcomes back the UK contingent, he would have to make do without the experienced front duo of Khama Billiat and Tino Kadewere.
Billiat, who featured in Kaizer Chiefs’ come from behind 1-1 draw against AmaZulu yesterday, is suspended for the first of the meetings against the Black Stars after picking two yellow cards.
The Kaizer Chiefs man is, however, in the travelling party as Mapeza rightfully directed that he be there to train with the rest of the squad before the Harare game.
Kadewere has partially recovered from a groin injury and played seven minutes when Lyon beat Brondby in a Europa League match on Thursday night.
Mapeza has called in Terrence Dzvukamanja and Knox Mutizwa to complement skipper Knowledge Musona upfront.
It has been one of those rare occasions for Musona where the Warriors talisman has gone on a lengthy barren spell without scoring for the national team.
The last time Musona went for at least three straight games without a goal for the Warriors was at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations where he also battled for both fitness and confidence after a long injury spell.
Musona, who now plies his trade in Saudi Arabia, has not found the target since his delicate free-kick guaranteed the Warriors a share of the spoils with Algeria in a 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium on November 16, 2020.
Both Mpandare and Mapeza will be happy that veteran defender Onismor Bhasera also featured in SuperSport United’s 0-0 draw against Chippa United.
But winger Kuda Mahachi started on the bench, while youthful midfielder Blessing Sarupinda could not make the match-day squad for Sekhukhune United in their win over TS Galaxy in the DStv Premiership.