ZIMBABWE might have already qualified for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon, but next week’s dead rubber Group L qualifier away to Guinea will be of huge significance to rising defender Teenage Hadebe and several other fringe players included in the Warriors squad.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The gifted 20-year-old Chicken Inn defender is strongly tipped to make his Warriors bow at the big stage against the Syli Nationale in Conakry as a direct replacement for injured Dynamos centre back Elisha Muroiwa.
Muroiwa, who had established himself at the heart of the Warriors defence with Czech Republic-based defender Costa Nhamoinesu sustained an injury during the Cosafa Cup tournament held in Namibia in May.
Since then, the 27-year-old former Twalumba FC defender who had started in the Warriors’ last three Afcon matches against Swaziland (back-to-back) and Malawi has not played for Dynamos because of the injury.
Although he has been training with the Glamour Boys, he is yet to get back to a desired fitness level and Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa is expected to give the Chicken Inn centre back the nod at the centre of defence.
Hadebe, a member of the Chan and Cosafa squad made the final 18 when Zimbabwe thrashed Malawi three 3-0 in June in Harare to secure qualification to the biennial soccer showcase to be staged in Gabon in January.
He had impressed Pasuwa after scoring a brace with clinically headed goals as a make-shift Warriors overcame a battling Uganda 2-0 in an international friendly at Rufaro, just three days before the clash against the Flames of Malawi.
That brilliant show by Hadebe — a left sided centre back who uses his height and timing to great effect — saw Pasuwa naming him in the final squad for the Malawi match although the towering defender did not play a part in the match.
With the game against Guinea now a dead rubber, Pasuwa is not under pressure and is said to be considering deploying Hadebe to partner Nhamoinesu at the heart of defence as he looks to widen his options.
Hadebe spent the first three years of his career with Bantu Rovers before moving to Highlanders in 2015.
While Hadebe has already made four appearances for the Zimbabwe national team and scoring three times, the upcoming encounter will be the biggest of his young career, thus far.
The young defender is reportedly on the verge of joining South African football giants Kaizer Chiefs after impressing Kaizer Chiefs coach Steve Komphela during a trial stint, which ended last week.
Besides Hadebe, another fringe player likely to break into the Warriors squad for the tie against Guinea is Maritzburg United defender Blessing Moyo, who could fill the void left by suspended CAPS United defender Hardlife Zvirekwi.
The Warriors who sealed their place at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals to be held in Gabon, will leave for Conakry on September 3, hoping to end a fairytale campaign on a high note.
Warriors’ team manager Shariff Mussa told The Standardsport in an interview yesterday that the players were expected to start trooping into camp today with preparations set to start tomorrow ahead of their departure for Guinea.
“We are hoping to have everyone in camp by tomorrow evening (tonight) so that we can have a full session of training from Monday. However, we are still sorting out the logistics with the European-based players as to when their fixtures are this weekend and whether it would be practical for them to come down here and join camp or if they would need to travel straight to Guinea depending on our travel itinerary,” said Mussa.
Goalkeepers:- Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Bernard Donovan (How Mine), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum)
Defenders:- Blessing Moyo (Maritzburg United, SA), Teenage Hadebe (Chicken Inn), Onismor Bhasera (Supersport United, SA), Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic), Godknows Murwira (Dynamos), Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn)
Midfielders:- Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Marvellous Nakamba (Vitesse Arnhem, Holland), Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows, SA), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows, SA), Marshall Mudehwe (FC Platinum), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Chicken Inn)
Strikers:- Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates, SA), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang, China), Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende, Belgium), Cuthbert Malajila (Bidvest Wits, SA), Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United, SA), Matthew Rusike (Helsingborgs IF, Sweden)