Warriors captain and Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Willard Katsande has hailed the squad selected by coach Kalisto Pasuwa for the team’s Afcon 2017 qualifiers against Swaziland as the strongest to have been put together in a long time. BY HENRY MHARA

Zimbabwe will play Swaziland in two matches over a four-day period, with the first match set for Mbabane on Friday March 25, before the reverse encounter in Harare on March 28.

Both nations are on four points at the top of Group L, which also includes Guinea and Malawi, third and bottom respectively.

The two matches could be the make-or-break for Zimbabwe, who will fancy themselves to pick six points and enhance their chances of finishing top of the pool and qualify for next year’s finals.

Zimbabwe’s final match in the Group is against Guinea away in Conakry and the Warriors know they need all points against Swaziland in order to avoid too many complications.

Pasuwa has picked what looks like a very strong squad on paper, with seven players based in Europe, including the trio of Tendai Darikwa, Brendan Galloway and Macauley Bonnie, who are in England.

Also in are strikers Nyasha Mushekwi, now based in China, where his team Dailian Yifang got off to a perfect start with a win in their first match of the season.

Katsande, who is one of 10 players coming in from the South African top-flight league, is confident that the squad put together will be able to grab the six points that Zimbabwe will be gunning for against Swaziland.

He reckons Pasuwa has named the best possible squad for the two matches.

“We have to qualify, by any means possible. Personally, I’m ready to make my nation proud by qualifying for the finals. We need those points, and if we can get maximum points from the two matches, we would be close (to qualification),” Katsande told NewsDay Sport yesterday.

He added: “The squad named is very good. It looks very strong. I think it is one of the best to be assembled in years. With this squad we can compete at the Afcon finals.”

After Swaziland, the Warriors will host Malawi at the National Sports Stadium in June before concluding their campaign with a trip to Guinea three months later.

Injured Milton Ncube, who started as a left-back for the Warriors in the last match, has been left out, with Bidvest Wits fullback Onismor Bhasera earning a recall.

The players are expected to start trooping into camp after the weekend matches, with training scheduled for today.

The matches against Swaziland are reported to have been targeted for manipulation before Zifa bust the alleged plot last week.

The mother body claims to hold evidence of a plan to fix the outcome of the two matches in favour of Swaziland, with former Zifa chief executive officer Henrietta Rushwaya, former Warriors coach Ian Gorowa, Pasuwa’s assistant Nation Dube, and the mother body’s executive committee member, Edzai Kasinauyo, all fingered in the suspected scam.

Investigations are ongoing in the case.

Katsande expressed his disgust at the alleged plot, saying that he would never deliberately lose a match for monetary reward.

He said if those fingered in the scam were found guilty, they were selfish and did not deserve to be playing the game.

“I hate match-fixing,” Katsande said. “Match-fixing is evil. I hate people who try to amass riches at the expense of others. Personally, I will never do that (match-fixing) to my country. I would rather die poor.”

Despite the match-fixing claims, Katsande believes Zimbabwe will still win their matches against Swaziland.

The match-fixing allegations have formed a dark cloud over the two matches, which will trigger a lot of scrutiny.

Warriors squad
Goalkeepers: Washington Arubi (Pretoria University, SA), Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Donovan Bernard (How Mine)

Defenders: Partson Jaure (Pretoria University, SA), Eric Chipeta (Chippa United, SA), Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Praha, Czech Republic), Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn), Hardlife Zvirekwi (Caps United), Bruce Kangwa (Highlanders), Onismor Bhasera (Bidvest Wits, SA), Tendai Darikwa (Burnley, England), Brendan Galloway (Everton, England), Elisha Muroiwa (Dynamos)

Midfielders: Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Marvelous Nakamba (Vitesse, Netherlands), Ronald Chitiyo (Harare City), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows, SA), Marshal Mudehwe (FC Platinum), Macauley Bonne (Colchester United, England), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Chicken Inn)

Strikers: Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende, Belgium), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang, China), Cuthbert Malajila (Mamelodi Sundowns, SA), Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns, SA), Evans Rusike (Maritzburg, SA), Matthew Rusike (Helsingborg IF, Sweden)

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