Warriors coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels is impressed by the attitude shown by his group of local players ahead of the friendly international against Zambia at Independence Stadium this afternoon.
Report by Michael Madyira
Zimbabwe engages Chipolopolo in a match to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Gabon Air Disaster.
The crash that occurred a few metres off the Atlantic Coast in Libreville killed 18 players, Football Association of Zambia officials, a journalist and five crew members.
In an emotional match that would certainly evoke grim memories of the April 27 1993 tragedy, the Independence Stadium could be a Lion’s Den for the Warriors with remains of those that perished in the disaster lying just outside the stadium in a special monument called “Heroes Acre.”
After winning last year’s Africa Cup of Nations ironically held in Gabon, Chipolopolo would be looking to further appease the spirits of a lost football generation, that was touted to reach dizzy heights.
However, Pagels intends to use that match to prepare for July’s Cosafa Cup as well as qualifiers for the African Nations Championships (Chan).
The Warriors captained by Highlanders winger Masimba Mambare arrived in Lusaka on Friday evening and Pagels has made it clear that the game is not result oriented.
In his third match in charge of the Warriors, the German is happy with the assertiveness exhibited by players eight of whom are senior national team rookies.
“This match gives us an opportunity to identify more players as we prepare for upcoming tournaments. In as much as we would want to win, our focus is more on
improving our game and creating combinations. From the short period we have trained, I am impressed by the mentality shown by all the players,” said Pagels.
“The way everyone is responding to our methods and system of play is the kind of attitude every coach always wants in his team. The boys have shown they are eager to learn new things and that is good. Even their physical shape is impressive.”
Mambare will be deputised by Maxwell Nyamupanendengu.
Expected to shine for the Warriors are Monomotapa winger Ronald Chitiyo, while Harare City’s Silas Songani could carry on from where he left off in the World Cup qualifier against Egypt last month.
Local football’s striker-of-the-moment Nelson Mazivisa’s efficiency in front of goal could carry the day for Zimbabwe.
While the Warriors are already out of contention for the 2014 World Cup, Pagels’ immediate attention is to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations.
Soon after playing Egypt in their dead rubber World Cup qualifier in June, the Warriors will shift focus to the Chan tournament, where only local players will be used for the tournament to be staged in South Africa early next year.
They will kick off their Chan qualifying campaign at home against the preliminary round winner between Mauritius and Comoros in the first round on the weekend of June 21 to 23, before the return leg two weeks later.
If they manage to get past the first round, they will meet the winner between Zambia and Botswana in the second and final round over two legs in July and August.
In July Pagels will return to Zambia for the Cosafa Cup as Zimbabwe aims for a fifth crown of the regional tournament.