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Warriors eye Afcon ticket

Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona finally arrived in the Liberian capital Monrovia late yesterday (6:30pm Zimbabwean time) after facing flight delays on his way from his Belgian base ahead of the Warriors’ penultimate 2018 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G football qualifier against the hosts at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex today.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The 28-year-old Anderlecht forward together with the other Europe-based players in the Warriors’ 18-man squad, who include Club Brugge midfielder Marvelous Nakamba and Wales-based utility player Alec Mudimu, were expected to fly directly to Monrovia from their bases.

While the other players arrived in the West African nation on Friday, Musona was still conspicuous by his absence in the camp, leading to speculation that he could miss the match against the Lone Stars.

Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela, who is in Liberia with the Warriors, however, allayed any such fears, revealing that the Anderlecht forward was in fact expected to arrive later yesterday after facing flight delays on his way from Belgium.

“His plane was delayed, but he is arriving this afternoon and will be available for tomorrow’s [today’s] match,” Gwesela told StandardSport yesterday.

Musona, who scored a memorable hat-trick in the reverse fixture in Harare last year, is expected to lead the Warriors attack after missing the last encounter against DR Congo at home due to suspension.

He has played a key role in the current qualifiers by scoring four goals for Zimbabwe, despite getting limited game time at his Belgian club Anderlecht since his high-profile move from KV Oostende in May.

Musona is one of the two key players who are returning from suspension. The other is Mudimu, who is also set to reclaim his place in the starting line-up after missing the Warriors’ 1-1 draw with DRC at home.

Zimbabwe have also welcomed back from injury France-based forward Tino Kadewere and Evans Rusike of SuperSport United, while former captain Willard Katsande has been recalled after recently coming out of retirement.

Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga is, however, not taking qualification for next year’s Afcon for granted despite needing just a point from their penultimate qualifier against Liberia today.

Zimbabwe lead Group G of the qualifiers with eight points, three ahead of second-placed DR Congo, who will clash against their neighbours Congo in an earlier kick-off.

A draw for Chidzambga and his men against Liberia today will be enough for them to seal their place at the Afcon finals in Cameroon next year with a match to spare.

Chidzambga has, however, warned his players to expect a different Liberian side from the one which they hammered 3-0 at home last year in the opening match of the qualifiers after recalling some of their-foreign based players to beef up the squad.

Although Liberia sit at the bottom of the pile with four points, they still retain a fighting chance going into the penultimate round of qualifying matches. In fact, Liberia are unbeaten at home in the current campaign after holding DR Congo to a one-all draw and beating Congo-Brazzaville 2-1 last month.

“I believe they have a changed team, we’ve also heard that they’ve brought in most of their foreign-based players. We also have our own foreign-based players and we have to match them in each and every aspect of the game. As long as we play like we did in the last two games against DRC, I have no doubt that we will get the result for the nation,” Chidzambga said.

The 66-year-old gaffer also expressed satisfaction with the desire shown by his players to get the job done.

“The boys are looking forward to this match, the feeling within the camp is that they are ready and they will fight from the first minute until the final whistle. We are going to get the point or points we need, but as you know in football anything can happen and we are just hoping for the best,” he said.

Liberia coach Thomas Kojo will have to do without Norway-based striker Sam Johnson, who has dropped out due to injury.

However, Kojo will be relieved that Newcastle United U-23 midfielder Mohammed Sangare, 19, is available to make his international debut.

The match between Zimbabwe and Liberia kicks off at 6pm Zimbabwean time and will be broadcast live on Supersport 9.

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