Young Warriors' moment of truth

HARARE - The Young Warriors will be hoping to salvage some pride for Zimbabwean football when they take on South Africa this afternoon at Rufaro Stadium in an African Under-23 Championship qualifier.

Local football is at its lowest ebb following the Mighty Warriors’ failure to travel to Ivory Coast yesterday for today’s Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualifier.

Zimbabweans will now be hoping the Young Warriors can put in a good performance against South Africa today.

The Young Warriors began their preparations for today’s game on Tuesday while the visitors have been in camp for two weeks now.

Zimbabwe Under-23 captain Wisdom Mutasa said: “This is a big game. We are not going to respect our opponents. If we give too much respect to South Africa then it will be difficult for us. We just need to play like we have done in all our last few matches. We have been together as a group for a long time now.

“I’m sure the little time we have had in training will not really affect the way we are going to play. All week we have been working on what we need to do on match day and if we implement what we learned during training there won’t be a problem.

“The fans should come in their large numbers to support us because we need them to support us.”

Young Warriors coach Calisto Pasuwa will have to do without a number of key players for today’s match. Regular left backs Ronald Pfumbidzai and Edwin Madhananga are unavailable.

Pfumbidzai travelled to Denmark to join up with his new team Hobro IK while Madhananga is on a week’s rest after suffering a concussion during a league match with Flame Lilly.

Centre half Liberty Chakoroma is in South Africa for trials with Free State Stars while Highlanders defender Teenage Hadebe only recovered on Friday from an ankle injury.

“There is need for some major changes in our defence. We would have wanted these boys (Chakoroma, Madhananga and Hedebe) to partner in defence. As you know, they are the ones I used to work with for a long time in the last few matches.

“Our defence needs to be at its best if we want to beat South Africa as you know our opponents are very good when it comes to attacking.

“For the left back we are going to use midfielder Pritchard Mpelele or young Carlos Rusere however, Hedebe still have the chance of making it on Sunday,” Pasuwa said last week.

The South Africans arrived in Harare on Friday afternoon and looked pretty confident of emerging from Rufaro with a good result.

Former Bafana Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett said: “We know it’s always going to be a challenge. Zimbabwe do not want to lose but for us it’s important to make sure we can get a positive result to go with for the second leg.

“We know they have got a very good team. They have a couple of players playing in South Africa that we know of and on Sunday (today) we are going to do what we do best.

“We have got some quality players in our team as well and if we can stop Zimbabwe from scoring it will give us a good chance of winning the game,” said Bartlett.

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