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We have learnt our lessons: Zifa

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Austin Karonga

SENIOR SPORTS WRITER

karongaa@dailynews.co.zw

ZIFA is set to name an enlarged squad for next month’s crucial Africa Cup of Nations final qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia as they set sights on making it to Cameroon in January 2022.

The decision to announce a bloated squad comes as the association is
aware of the challenges that come with the environment obtaining in
the country where Covid-19 has affected the smooth flow of business.

Zimbabwe’s failed campaign at the African Nations Championships where
the local-based Warriors crashed out of the tournament in the first
round was not spared by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At least 15 members tested positive for coronavirus which caused
serious distraction to the preparations as every member had to isolate
for at least 10 days.

After their elimination in Cameroon, four members of the Warriors
squad remained behind after testing positive and had to travel later
after returning negative results.

“We are making follow ups on the invitations we sent to the clubs on
the releasing of players for camp. We don’t anticipate any challenges
and as soon as we get feedback, the technical team will immediately
get down to business,” Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare told the
Daily News yesterday.

“It will be an enlarged squad of more than 30 players because we want
to factor in the issue of injuries and challenges associated with
Covid-19.

“We cannot run away from the Covid-19 reality and the Chan
preparations provide a good picture on the pandemic’s effects and
impact on the national team’s preparations.

“This time we should be well prepared to deal with eventualities
because of the lessons we picked when it caught us unawares.

“However, as an association we remain guided by the recommandations
from the World Health Organisation, the Health ministry and our parent
ministry of Sports and we will play our part by doing the basic
fundamentals as enshrined in those guidelines.”

The ball is in the Warriors’ court as they carry a one point advantage
over second-placed Botswana and two over Zambia who anchor the Group H
log standings.

Zimbabwe travel to Botswana on March 22 hoping for a win that will
boost their chances of qualification.

The locals wind up their campaign with a date against Zambia’s
Chipolopolo the following weekend at home.

Locally-based national players will get in camp as soon as the
modalities are finalised while the majority of those playing in
foreign leagues will join the squad at a later date.

Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic will be banking on a number of key
foreign-based players to deliver the job in the remaining two
encounters. These include on song Lyon striker Tino Kadewere who is
enjoying a purple patch in the French topflight league.

The usually dependable striking pair of Kaizer Chiefs talisman Khama
Billiat and captain Knowledge Musona playing in Belgium for KAS Eupen
are on the mend and their presence will inject more life into the
Warriors’ quest for a final berth in Cameroon.

Billiat was ruled out for two months after picking up a leg injury
last month while Musona also suffered a knee injury last month.

Zifa had hoped to get international friendlies ahead of the last two
qualifiers but the request was thrown away by the government citing
the coronavirus situation in the country.

“The Sports and Recreation Commission hereby gives you notice,
following your application, that the minister of Sports disapproved
your application to play international friendly matches in preparation
for 2022 Afcon qualifying matches in March 2021,” SRC said.

“Due to the current Covid-19 situation in the country, only local
friendly matches can be done with teams already in a bubble.

“The situation will be reviewed at the end of the current lockdown
period and you may timeously apply for each respective planned
international friendly as the case maybe.”

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