WARRIORS coach Kalisto Pasuwa is targeting North and West African opposition as he prepares to lead his team to the 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals to be held in Gabon in January. BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

Although the Warriors have already qualified for the continent’s greatest football showcase after beating Malawi 3-0 in Harare in June, Pasuwa is attaching so much significance to Zimbabwe’s last qualifying match against Guinea in Conakry scheduled for Saturday.

With the Warriors priming themselves for the finals where they will face the best football nations in Africa, Pasuwa is taking the Guinea match seriously and wants his team to approach it as if they had not qualified.

He has drawn up a programme in which he has lined up international friendlies against teams from North Africa as part of preparations for the January football feté.

“The Guinea match is very important to us. I thought maybe it’s a game which we should use for our preparations for the Afcon finals,” Pasuwa said yesterday after overseeing the Warriors first training session ahead of the final round of Gabon 2017 qualifiers.

“The game helps us in terms of combinations. We normally don’t get opportunities to play friendly matches against North, East and West African countries. You find if we play teams in the southern region like Botswana and Malawi, we will not benefit much, so we have a programme which I will submit to my bosses to see if we can play friendly matches with teams like Tunisia and Algeria. It will give us an indication of where we are in terms of preparations for the Afcon tournament.”

But travelling to those areas that Pasuwa wants may prove to be a challenge with Zifa deep in financial problems.

However, with the Warriors having done so well in the qualifiers they may get favours from other nations offering to travel to Harare for friendlies as they prepare for the finals.

The timing of the friendlies may also prove a stumbling block.

Pasuwa said players like Knowledge Musona, Tendai Ndoro and Khama Billiat, who have struck a rich vein of form since the start of their respective seasons, would benefit the Warriors ahead of the match against Guinea.

Ndoro last week scored a hat-trick for South African giants Orlando Pirates, while Musona has scored three goals for his Belgian club KV Oostende since the start of the season.

China-based Nyasha Mushekwi, who has, however, been ruled out for the Guinea trip after his club requested to use the player in their championship battle, also scored a hat-trick recently and is the leading goal scorer in the second-tier league.

Pasuwa, however, said the players still needed to continue improving as the team prepares for the January tournament.
Fifteen players headlined by skipper Willard Katsande reported for training on the first day yesterday with those based in Europe – Musona, Costa Nhamoinesu, Mushekwi and Marvelous Nakamba – the notable absentees.

Pasuwa said Musona, Nakamba and Nhamoinesu were expected to fly straight to Guinea from their bases where they would link up with the rest of the squad.

Midfielder Danny Phiri, who recently signed for South African Premiership side Golden Arrows, was also one of the absentees after he asked to be excused as he settles at his new club.

With Marshall Mudehwe having been involved in an accident on Saturday, Pasuwa said he had roped in Ronald Chitiyo as a replacement.

The Warriors, who are expected to leave for Guinea on Thursday, secured qualification for the biennial soccer showcase in Group L with a game to spare after defeating Malawi in their last qualifier.

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