BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE’S preparations for the crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia suffered a major setback after inform France-based striker Tino Kadewere was ruled out of the crucial ties due to injury.
The Warriors, who are expected to start arriving in camp tomorrow, open their campaign with a tricky tie against Botswana at the National Sports Stadium on Friday evening before facing a tough away test against regional rivals Zambia, four days later.
Zimbabwe will be seeking a fast start to their qualification campaign in a group, which also features African champions Algeria.
However, they are set to kick-off the qualifiers without the services of Kadewere, who has been in free-scoring form for French Ligue 2 side Le Havre.
Kadewere limped off in the second half of Le Havre’s 2-0 defeat to Sochaux on Friday night due to a hamstring injury, which is expected to rule him out of action for up to four weeks.
The 23-year-old former Harare City and Djurgårdens IF forward is currently topping the scoring charts in the French Ligue 2 with 12 goals from 15 matches.
It’s the second consecutive national team call-up Kadewere has failed to honour due to injury after another injury ruled him out of the Warriors World Cup preliminary round matches against Somalia in September.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare told Standardsport in an interview yesterday that although he was still awaiting official communication from Le Havre, the player had confirmed to him that he suffered a hamstring tear.
“It’s a big blow, he’s been scoring lots of goals in France and obviously, the coach would have wanted him for the upcoming matches,” Mpandare said.
“Remember he missed the World Cup qualifier against Somalia and he was looking forward to the upcoming matches because it would have been the first time for him to be playing under coach Joey [Antipas].
“He is obviously disappointed and it’s a big blow for us. We will discuss with the coach to see if he wants a replacement or we continue with those 23 players.”
The Warriors team manager said he was hopeful that there won’t be any more injuries to the players when they feature for their clubs ahead of the start of camp on Monday.
“We just hope and pray that there won’t be any injuries to the players during this weekend’s matches. Everything else has been well in terms of the preparations,” he said.
“The air tickets have been sent to the players and accommodation sorted. So, we are good to go and the players will start arriving from their bases on Monday [tomorrow].”
Kadewere’s injury comes at a time when uncertainty still surrounds the availability of another key striking option, England-based forward Macauley Bonne. His participation in the upcoming matches reamains in doubt despite finally receiving his Zimbabwean passport on Friday.
This is after reports in England last week that Bonne, who has been in top form for English championship side Charlton Athletic could be about to pause his international career with Zimbabwe as he sets his sights on a possible England call-up in the future.
Antipas also faces a dilemma of whether to select Belgium-based Warriors talisman Knowledge Musona as he is also terribly short of competitive match fitness after failing to break into the Anderlecht first team this season.
There are, however, strong indications that Musona is expected to reclaim the captaincy duties of the team despite his dismal Afcon campaign and struggles at his club.
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze, Simbarashe Chinani, Talbert Shumba.
Defenders: Alec Mudimu, Cliff Moyo, Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga, Ian Nekati, Partson Jaure, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Kelvin Moyo.
Midfielders: Marvellous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Butholwezi Ncube, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Terrence Dzukamanja, Thabani Kamusoko.
Strikers: Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Macauley Bonne, Knox Mtizwa, Prince Dube.