Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
EXACTLY 2 188 days since their last World Cup match, the Warriors return to the competition when they take on Somalia in a Fifa World Cup 2022 preliminary round first-leg qualifier in Djibouti today.
The match set for Stade Du Ville kicks-off at 5PM Zimbabwean time.
The Warriors were last in the competition on September 8, 2013, against Mozambique in a match that ended 1-1 at Rufaro Stadium for the 2014 Group G World Cup qualifier and ended bottom of the group without any win.
They were to watch from the sidelines for the 2018 football jamboree after being booted out via the boardroom by Fifa for failing to pay Brazilian coach, Valinhos. That Fifa bombshell was announced on March 12, 2015.
Valinhos took his case to Fifa after trying without success since October 2008 to get Zifa to pay him his outstanding salary.
The Brazilian, who led the Warriors on failed campaigns for both the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the African Cup of Nations staged in Angola earlier that same year, was on a $10 000 a month salary and was only paid for the first six months of his tenure when the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority was in charge of his upkeep.
Interim coach, Joey Antipas, will be hoping for a positive return to the global stage for the Southern African nation that has never qualified for the finals of the Fifa World Cup.
The local group of players and members of the technical team, led by head of delegation Elton Sinyosi, left the country for Ethiopia on Tuesday where they linked up with the South African contingent in Addis Ababa before joining up with the Europe-based trio of Teenage Hadebe, Marshall Munetsi and Alec Mudimu in Djibouti.
Zimbabwe and Somalia are meeting for the third time; the first being an international friendly on November 10, 1983, and the second time on November 19 of the same year in the Cecafa tournament. In both encounters, Zimbabwe posted 2-1 wins.
After today’s clash, the two countries will clash in the second-leg at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday, with the winner going through to the first round of qualifiers that gets underway in March next year.
Warriors’ probable starting 11
Elvis Chipezeze, Peter Muduhwa, Divine Lunga, Teenage Hadebe, Alec Mudimu, Marshall Munetsi, Kuda Mahachi, Thabani Kamusoko, Phinias Bamusi, Knox Mutizwa, Terrence Dzukamanja
Substitutes: Talbert Shumba, McClive Phiri, Sipho Ndlovu, Clive Augusto, Tichaona Chipunza
Technical staff: Joe Antipas, Lloyd Chitembwe, Tembo Chuma, Xolani Ndlovu, Wellington Mpandare, Admire Nyamadzawo, Zivanai Chiyangwa, David Chigogo,
Head of delegation: Elton Sinyosi.