BY FORTUNE MBELE
WARRIORS star Knox Mutizwa still has very fond memories of his last international match on home soil after almost single-handedly rescuing Zimbabwe’s campaign for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.
Mutizwa had gone into the match desperate to atone for a forgettable display in the previous encounter after missing a sitter in the 2022 World Cup preliminary round, first leg tie against minnows Somalia, which the Warriors embarrassingly lost 1-0 in Djibouti.
The 26-year-old Lamontville Golden Arrows striker, however, made amends in the second leg after inspiring the Warriors’ remarkable turnaround a few days later in the second leg with a blistering performance after coming off the bench at the National Sports Stadium.
With the Warriors needing two goals late in the match after Somalia striker Omah Abdullah Mohamed had cancelled Marshall Munetsi’s 77th minute goal; Mutizwa brought the Warriors back to life after scoring a brilliant freekick with two minutes left before the final whistle.
And before the referee could blow the final whistle, the Golden Arrows’ gun man set up Khama Billiat to finish off the Ocean Stars, as the Warriors reached the group stages of the qualifiers in dramatic fashion.
Since his heroics for the Warriors, Mutizwa has gone on a brilliant run of scoring form for his South African club and is aiming to reproduce his form for the Warriors when the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers begin later this month with matches against Botswana and Zambia.
Mutizwa told The Sports Hub in an interview from his base in Durban that he was relishing the competition for a starting berth in the Warriors’ starting lineup as he looks to finally shake off the unwanted tag of being one of the fringe players in the squad.
“If I get a chance to be in the starting line-up against Botswana, I will use that opportunity to the best of my ability. In Zimbabwe, we have a number of good strikers and some are playing in the big leagues and maybe for me, it’s just because I play for a little team called Golden Arrows,” Mutizwa said jokingly.
He added: “But one day I will play for a big team and get that respect. Each time I don’t get to start, but I have no problem with that. We are one nation and as players we love each other for one purpose. It has been a long time since we have been together and when we regroup, it is my wish that we prepare well and destroy Botswana.”
The Warriors host Botswana at the National Sports Stadium on November 15 before travelling to Zambia for another date with Chipolopolo four days later.
Zimbabwe finish the first round of the Group H matches later next year against Afcon holders Algeria.
Mutizwa will have to compete for a start in the Warriors’ squad against European-based players such as former captain Knowledge Musona, the inform duo of Tinotenda Kadewere and Macauley Bonne as well as Admiral Muskwe.
Also battling for places in the Warriors final squad alongside Mutizwa are Evans Rusike and Terrence Dzvukamanja, who also ply their trade on the South African league and in-form locally-based rising star Prince Dube.
The former Highlanders striker, who left the Bulawayo giants in 2015 for South Africa, has become a hit at Golden Arrows and is in the running for Absa Premiership Golden Boot award in the early stages of the season.
Mutizwa scored his fifth goal in nine matches last Saturday for Golden Arrows when they beat Polokwane City at the Sugar Ray Xulu Stadium to take him just one goal behind Highlands Park’s Peter Shalulile, who is currently topping the scoring charts in that country.
The Zimbabwean said he was targeting to score 20 goals this season, which he believes will be enough for him to clinch the Golden Boot in South Africa.
“Here in South Africa if you score 18 goals you win the Golden Boot and my target is to score 20 goals and at the rate that I am scoring, I think that is achievable,” he said.
“When you are in good form the others have a way of monitoring you to keep you in check and everyone knows your strength, so you are also pushed to study your opponents seriously to know their defenders’ weaknesses and I have to do that to achieve my target,” Mutizwa said.
Mutizwa won the Golden Boot in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer league in 2015 after finding the back of the net 14 times in only 17 starts for Bulawayo giants Highlanders.