Easy passage for Young Warriors

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s national Under-23 football team’s passage in the Caf Under-23 Championships qualifying campaign has been made easier following the withdrawal of Senegal.

Senegal withdrew from the qualifying round as they will now host the Championships in December.

They take over from DR Congo who withdrew citing an unhealthy political environment owing to the forthcoming presidential elections.

“The initial fixtures before the withdrawal of DRC were as follows: Zimbabwe vs Swaziland winner was going to play against South Africa in the second round and the winner from the second round was going to play against Senegal in the third round,” Confederation of African Football (Caf) competitions deputy director, Khaled Nassar advised Zifa this week.

“Now that Senegal is not playing the qualifiers the winner of Zimbabwe/Swaziland vs South Africa will qualify directly to the final tournament.”

The letter further confirmed the new dates for the qualifying matches.

“Furthermore, the Caf executive committee decided to play the matches between Zimbabwe and Swaziland on the dates set for the second round. And the following match in the dates of the third round,” he added.

Zimbabwe will play Swaziland in the first leg second round qualifier on the weekend of May 22-24 while the return leg will be on May 29-31.

If the Young Warriors knock out Swaziland, South Africa will be the next hurdle with the first and second legs scheduled for June 17-19 and July 31-02 respectively.

The Caf Under -23 Championship acts as qualifiers to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with the top three teams automatically qualifying while the fourth placed team engages a team from the Asian Football Confederation in a playoff.

The quadrennial youth tournament was founded in 2011 and Gabon won the inaugural edition beating hosts Morocco 2-1.

This year’s edition is set to be staged from December 5 to 19.

The first and second leg of the second round Caf U-23 Championship qualifier fall within the same period as that of the 2015 Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) tournament.

Zifa spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela revealed that the mother body will decide by Monday which teams to use for the two tournaments.

“We wanted to use the U-23s for both the Cosafa and the U23 Championship, but we have an unfortunate scenario of dates that are clashing,” he said.

“We will come with a position by Tuesday latest, on which team to use for Cosafa and the U23 Championship.

“On other logistics, we will be guided by Cosafa,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Young Warriors are expected to begin camp in preparation for the first round qualifier against Swaziland on Monday.

The technical team has already released the names of players they intend to work with and the process of securing them has commenced.

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