Pagels targets Cosafa glory

HARARE - Zimbabwe national football coach Klaus-Dieter Pagels says his team is taking the Cosafa Cup seriously and is ready to defend its title — won in 2009 on home soil.

The Warriors are four-time Cosafa champions and were victorious at Rufaro Stadium when the competition was last held in Zimbabwe in 2009.

The tournament kicked off at the weekend in Zambia with the first round of matches. Zimbabwe will begin their title defence at the quarterfinal stage against the Flames of Malawi after getting a bye in the group stages.

On Tuesday, the Warriors held their first two training sessions ahead of their scheduled departure tomorrow with Pagels expressing satisfaction with his squad.

“It would be a wonderful thing to (successfully) defend the Cosafa Cup and I think we have what it takes to do that,” Pagels told Daily News.

“This tournament is really important for these young local players. It gives them the chance not only to improve but to prove their worth in the national team.

“We will be completely focused on winning the cup. I know all eyes are on us as the record holders as well as defending champions but we are not letting that get into our heads.

“I know some have already kicked us out but we will surprise you. After what happened, of course, it’s important for us to show we are ready and motivated.

“We want to stick to our philosophy of the passing game. We will continue in building our project. It is important to go for every trophy in any tournament.”

A new-look Zimbabwe squad lost two 2014 World Cup qualifiers last month going down 4-2 to Egypt at the National Sports Stadium and 1-0 away to Guinea.

This time around Pagels has selected an inexperienced squad made up of domestic players for the tournament in Zambia.

Pagels and his technical team saw their selection restricted to, at most, two players per club to avoid disruption of the Premiership programme.

Despite the selection criteria Pagels was encouraged by the fighting spirit and dedication shown by the players at training.

“All the players we have called are committed and are really engaged. They are fighting for each other,” said the German, who is likely to end his relationship with the Warriors at the end of the Cosafa tournament.

Zimbabwe should, however, expect stiff competition from hosts Zambia, South Africa and Angola who are among the top seeds.

If the Warriors manage to get past Malawi, they will meet the winner of either Angola or the winner of the Group B preliminary round.

In the event that Angola progresses, it would be a renewal of the two sides’ rivalry.

Last year, the Palancas Negras’ denied the Warriors a place at the 2013 African Cup of Nations finals held in South Africa this year.

Highlanders forward Masimba Mambare will captain the team.

Chicken Inn striker Tendai Ndoro, who is the current leading scorer in the Castle Premiership with 11 goals after 16 games, is expected to play an important role for the team in Zambia.

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