WARRIORS coach Kalisto Pasuwa says the team needs to prepare adequately if they are to make an impression at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon next year. BY HENRY MHARA

Pasuwa’s men, among lowest-ranked teams on the list of the qualified teams, will be in Pot D when the draw, scheduled for October 19 in Gabon, is made, and are certainly going to be drawn against the giants of African football.

Traditional powerhouses, except Nigeria, qualified, suggesting there will be no escape or an easy draw for the Warriors when the draw is conducted in just over a month’s time.
Pasuwa reckons, though, that he has one of the best squads, while South Africa coach Shakes Mashaba, whose side failed to qualify, has already predicted the Warriors to be the dark horses at the tournament.

However, Pasuwa is worried that inadequate preparations could hamper his team’s potential.

His comments came after the team’s disastrous trip to Guinea at the weekend for their final Group L qualifier where they arrived on the morning of the match, and eventually lost 1-0.

The trip initially looked doomed before a chartered plane was arranged for the team at the eleventh hour, touching down in Conakry at around 3am after a punishing seven-hour flight from Harare.

“Some people would say this is how we have been operating, but one day, we will come to a standstill. We need to do the correct thing to produce better performances. We saw many mistakes in that match and we need these boys to be together for a long time. The Europe-based players did not train with us, so there was no coordination. We need time together for bonding and the training itself,” Pasuwa said.

The Warriors, who went into the match having already qualified for the finals, appeared to be suffering from fatigue, playing at a slow tempo early on, allowing the hosts to have the ball while they defended deep in their own half.

They upped the tempo in the second half though, outplaying the hosts, but failed to convert the numerous chances that came their way. Chief striker, Knowledge Musona, often reliable, missed two good opportunities, hitting the post with one effort. Fellow forwards, Cuthbert Malajila and substitute Tendai Ndoro were also guilty of fluffing decent chances that came their way.

“In the first half we didn’t play well because of the condition of the pitch and considering that we only arrived in Guinea on the morning of the match. The players’ legs were heavy in the initial stages of the match and the weather

was also not good, the humidity was very high. But they adjusted as the game progressed, hence, the better performance in the second half,” the former Dynamos gaffer, who has already suggested playing at least two friendly matches against North and West African opponents between now and January, said.

“There are areas were we need to rectify. We need to do more for us to compete well at the finals. At this level it’s all about taking chances. Guinea got one good opportunity and buried it.”

Pasuwa said the door was still open for players, who did not make the trip to Guinea, to be selected for the finals squad.

Calls have been made for the coach to cast his net wider and consider players such as England-based Tendai Darikwa and Brendan Galloway, who play for English Premiership sides Burnley and West Bromwich Albion, respectively, to be considered into the team to solve the problematic wingback positions.

“Anyone who plays well will be selected. We are looking for players, but I will not make wholesale changes to the team that has been playing because coming up

with a team is a process and we do not have time. There are a few we are considering, all deserving players will be selected and given a chance. We need the support of everyone, and to be united as a nation so that we will do well in Gabon,” Pasuwa said.

Zimbabwe are one of the 16 teams that made it to the continental premier football competition and will be joined by Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Mali, Morocco, Senegal and hosts Gabon at the tournament next January.

It is the third time the Warriors would be making an appearance at the Afcon finals.

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