Grace Chingoma, Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS talisman Knowledge Musona and a number of other foreign-based players are likely to miss the high profile international friendly soccer match against Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan on Boxing Day as they would still be committed at their respective clubs.
The Zimbabwe national soccer team are scheduled to go into camp on Thursday to kick-start their preparations for the 2017 African Cup of Nations finals in Gabon next month.
However, the friendly match against Cote d’Ivoire, which will be staged three days after the squad had assembled in Harare, might fail to draw the full strength squad amid reports that some key Warriors players will be absent.
Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa is expected to announce his enlarged squad for the Nations Cup today.
But it has emerged that Belgium-based forward Musona, who has a league match against AS Eupen on the same day the Warriors date Cote d’Ivoire, is likely to miss the game.
Also doubtful for the first Warriors friendly match against the West African giants is China-based forward Nyasha Mushekwi.
The Chinese League One season ended a month ago but Mushekwi is currently in the United Kingdom for personal business and he is only expected back home on December 27.
Sparta Prague defender Costa Nhamoinesu is also likely to miss the trip to Abidjan due to club commitments in the Czech Republic.
But a number of players who helped the Warriors qualify for the 2017 Afcon finals will be available for the friendly match against Cote d’Ivore and they include the likes of goalkeepers Tatenda Mukuruva and Donovan Benard, defenders Hardlife Zvirekwi, Elisha Muroiwa, Lawrence Mhlanga, Teenage Hadebe, Tendai Ndlovu and Ronald Pfumbidzayi.
Midfielders Liberty Chakoroma, Lewis Kutinyu, Ronald Chitiyo, Marshal Mudehwe, Talent Chawapiwa, Walter Musona and Malvin Gaki, strikers Pritchard Mpelele, Tinotenda Kadewere and veteran Leonard Tsipa are also expected to make the trip to Abidjan.
The Warriors will barely have time to train for the Elephants game as they could be travelling to Abidjan in dribs and drabs.
Warriors’ manager, Sharif Mussa, was yesterday not available to comment on their itinerary but the team is likely to leave a day or two after assembling.
The players plying their trade in the South African Premiership, who form the large brigade of foreign-based players in the national team, are concluding their matches on Thursday before the Christmas break.
Khama Billiat’s Mamelodi Sundowns would be away to Baroka FC on Unity Day while Warriors skipper Willard Katsande’s Kaizer Chiefs will travel to Durban for a match against Golden Arrows on Wednesday.
The South Africa-based players are likely to connect from Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport straight to West Africa rather than travelling to Zimbabwe first. Warriors coach Pasuwa was hoping to have the first few days of training set aside for medicals and fitness tests.
But he will have to make do with the programme which has been put in place by Zifa and get the locally based players, currently off-season and would need at least a week of intensive training to pick up again, to get in shape quickly.
Pasuwa has noted that he would be happy to play at least two or three international friendly matches before heading to Gabon for the Afcon finals.
The Warriors are still expected to play another West African opposition next month when they travel to Yaounde to wind up their preparations with a match against Cameroon on January 10.
Zimbabwe will use their stay in Cameroon to acclimatise with neighbouring Gabon’s conditions.
The Warriors are then expected to make a short trip of 45 minutes from Yaounde to Libreville, Gabon, where they will further catch a domestic flight to Franceville where Group B teams will based.
Zimbabwe’s opening African Cup of Nations match is on January 15 against Algeria. They will also take on Tunisia and Senegal in Group B.
Zifa are still to confirm another friendly match against the host nation Gabon. If confirmed, the Warriors will play the Panthers before they meet the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in another international friendly match ahead of the Afcon finals.