THE Warriors will attempt to subdue the Crocodiles of Lesotho this evening when they clash in the first semi-finals of the Cosafa Castle Cup at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola. Kick-off is 5pm.
FROM WELLINGTON TONI IN KITWE
The national team trained at the big match venue yesterday afternoon before returning to their base in Kitwe, a 45-minute road trip. They will travel to Kitwe this afternoon — a situation which might sap some bit of energy from the team.
That aside, the defending champions will be forced to make some changes to their playing personnel as Hardlife Zvirekwi’s right ankle was still bandaged yesterday morning. He could miss the match.
“It’s getting better, but I don’t think I will play tomorrow (today). We will assess the situation, but for the final I will be there,” the Warriors star said.
Nicholas Guyo, though not a regular at his club Monomotapa, is also expected to start as coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels has fallen in love with the player, while Last Chibwiro and Lot Chiungwa’s conditions are still being monitored. Chiungwa, though, is rather a serious case and could be out of the tournament.
Assistant coach Lloyd Mutasa said they were hoping to reach the final.
“We are hoping to sail through. The confidence levels are good for now,” he said
But he admitted that the boys seemed to tire during the quarter-final match against Malawi.
“So we need to capitalise when we still have the energy and have something in the bag when we go for the half-time break.
It’s worrying though that the season at home is halfway through, but some of the players are still not fit enough.
“Sometimes a player might have an opportunity to push forward, but retreat because they are afraid of losing energy.
“If you looked at Zambia, their players are very fit and this being a tournament, we can’t come here and start working on the physical side of the players. Maybe there is something that we are not doing right at home,” Mutasa said.
The Warriors will again be starting with Tendai Ndoro upfront.
The Chicken Inn gunman and the leading scorer in the Castle Premiership with 11 goals from 16 matches, needs a second striker to push him on.
Devon Chafa and skipper Masimba Mambare will start as the double defensive twins with Charles Sibanda playing behind the lone striker, if no further changes are made.
With Zvirekwi struggling with an injury, there will be changes in the back four. Chicken Inn’s Felix Chindungwe and Hwange hardman Eric Chipeta will be the twin centre-backs with Ocean Mushure operating from the left.
Mushure, Chipeta and Chafa scored Zimbabwe’s penalties in the 3-1 over Malawi after conceding a late equaliser and will be looking forward to avoiding such near-heart breaks this time around.
Talisman Ronald Chitiyo, rested from training on Monday and named man-of-the-match against Malawi, will operate from the right side of midfield.
Goalkeeper Max Nyamupanedengu could still get the nod ahead of Munyaradzi Diya and Tafadzwa Dube.
Lesotho, on the other hand, have already played three matches and seem to have been building up on their confidence despite a slow start.
They threw away a 2-0 lead against Kenya to draw 2-2 before a win against Botswana which saw them top Group B.
They were last in the semi-finals in 2000 and even reached the final only to lose 6-0 to Zimbabwe — winners of the competition four times — over two legs.
Lesotho coach Leslie Notsi said his side had respect for Zimbabwe, but given their performances so far in the competition, they will enter the semi-finals with genuine belief that they can upset the Warriors.
“Their track record speaks volumes and we just have to keep our feet on the ground,” Notsi said.
“We don’t have to change anything. We need to continue with the way we have been playing and see how it goes,” Notsi told MTN Football.