Timely boost

WARRIORS African Cup of Nations campaign has begun to take shape before the players even report for camp after versatile player Marshal Munetsi returned from an ankle injury while captain Knowledge Musona and talisman Khama Billiat resumed light training.

Munetsi, who can play in midfield, centre back or right back but has largely been used as a midfielder, was introduced as a second half substitute in Stade Reims’ shock 3-4 defeat against French Ligue 2 side Valenciennes in the Coupe de France on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old missed Reims’ four matches last month due to injury which also ruled him out of the Warriors’ back-to-back fixtures against the Desert Foxes of Algeria in November. He did not feature in the one nil win over Brest on January 24, a 0-1 victory against Strasbourg, 0-0 draw at home against Angers and the 1-0 defeat to Lorient on February 6.

Kaizer Chiefs marksman Billiat, who was ruled out for two months after succumbing to a leg injury last month, is making steady progress so is skipper Musona who suffered a knee injury last month.

Billiat’s last taste of action was in Amakhosi’s 0-2 defeat against Maritzburg United where he was taken off for Dumisani Zuma after 48 minutes. He was then subsequently left out of the squad in Chiefs’s next six games, three wins, two draws and the 2-1 derby defeat away at Orlando Pirates.

Captain of the ship Musona was stretchered off the field after 28 minutes in KAS Eupen’s 1-4 humbling at the hands of Genk. Since then he has been off the field, missing at least nine matches in the Belgian Jupiler League and has also been quietly nursing his injury.

“Marshal played for his side in a cup game during the week, although he came on as a second half substitute we are glad that he has managed to overcome his injury which comes as a boost for the Warriors technical team as we embark on this last phase of Afcon qualifiers,” Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare told the Daily News yesterday.

“Khama is three or so weeks away from regaining full fitness but he’s back in the gym while Knowledge has started some light training so it’s all pointing in the right direction for their respective clubs and the Warriors at large.

“It’s good for the coaches to have their full complement of players available for such crucial moments which definitely comes as a boost as we continue to monitor their progress.” Zimbabwe travel to Botswana on March 22 hoping for nothing short of victory to maintain second position in Group H. They conclude their campaign with a home tie against Zambia the following weekend where victory will see them book an Afcon berth for the tournament scheduled for Cameroon in January 2022.

The Warriors are in second position in Group H with five points behind log leaders Algeria (10) who have already qualified for Cameroon. Botswana with four points are on number three while Zambia anchor the table with three points. The Warriors are still in with a chance of qualifying for Cameroon next year and wins in both encounters  against Botswana and Zambia will get them to the Promised Land.

“The squad will resume camp in strict adherence to Covid-19 lockdown guidelines as prescribed by the World Health Organisation and the Zimbabwean government,” Mpandare added. “The pandemic is real and as such everybody should do their part to protect themselves and each other and it is our fervent hope God will smile on us as we seek to make it to Cameroon next year.”

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