Injuries and late withdrawals have dogged Zimbabwe’s camp ahead of the Warriors’ COSAFA Cup title defence with the five-time champions certain to miss skipper Knowledge Musona and Czech-based centre back Costa Nhamoinesu.
The Warriors will face the winners of a tightly contested Group B that comprises Angola, Botswana, Malawi and Mauritius, in a quarter-final match on June 3.
But their talismanic forward Knowledge Musona has all but been ruled out of the tournament being staged in South Africa’s Limpopo Province due to a niggling ankle injury.
The former Kaizer Chiefs hitman recently joined Belgian giants Anderlecht on a four-year deal but the striker affectionately known as the Smiling Assassin appears a huge doubt to lead Zimbabwe’s quest for a new record sixth COSAFA Cup title.
Musona is, according to team manager, Wellington Mpandare expected to link up with the Warriors in South Africa where the team’s medical crew will make their own assessment of the extent of his injury.
Mpandare revealed that as they were grappling with fears over Musona’s availability, they were also dealt another blow with tall defender Nhamoinesu, who plies his trade with Sparta Prague, being an 11thhour withdrawal because of injury very late on Wednesday.
“Costa is now definitely out. He aggravated an ankle injury and we only established that very late so we have to now urgently find a replacement for him before we leave for Polokwane.
“We also have a challenge in that we are restricted to just two players each from the local clubs in order not to disrupt the domestic PSL programme during the COSAFA tournament but we will definitely come up with a plan before we leave Harare,’’ Mpandare said.
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa had initially called up an enlarged squad that included a host of young Zimbabweans playing in leagues in England and Germany but delays in the procurement of their passports meant that only defender Alec Mudimu who is on the books of Wales top-flight outfit Cefn Druids made the trip to the national team camp.
Chidzambwa also had to make do with the earlier withdrawals of Kaizer Chiefs defender Teenage Hadebe and Club Brugge midfielder Marvelous Nakamba before having to contend with the Musona and Nhamoinesu blows.
The Warriors will embark on a road trip from Harare to Polokwane on Thursday and despite the problems with the injuries Mpandare described their week of camp as fruitful.
“Apart from the injuries, we are geared up for the defence of our title and the final week of preparations has been near perfect and it helped a lot with team bonding and the on field chemistry between the players,’’ Mpandare said.
Despite the latest injury concerns to their captain Musona and influential defender Nhamoinesu, the Warriors remain strong and were on Tuesday night boosted by the arrival of star midfielder Khama Billiat.
Injuries and club commitments with South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns had meant that Billiat has missed Warriors action for more than one and half years having last featured for his national team at the 2017 African Cup of Nations in Gabon.
In-form Swedish-based striker Tinotenda Kadewere who scored four goals for his side Djurgedens in a league match last Sunday is also among the cast of stars who will be hoping to emulate the Warriors class of 2017 and retain the COSAFA Cup.
Goalkeepers: E. Sibanda, T. Shumba, G. Chigova.
Defenders: K. Moyo, D. Lunga, A. Mudimu, T. Chimwemwe, J. Mukombwe.
Midfielders: T. Chawapihwa, M. Munetsi, O. Karuru, K. Billiat, R. Hachiro, L. Mavunga, R. Kutinyu.
Strikers: T. Kadewere, A. Amidu, T. Dzvukamanja, E. Rusike