HARARE - Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa has included Sweden-based forward Tinotenda Kadewere in a strong 23-man squad announced yesterday to represent the country at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon.
The Djurgardens IF striker was handed his first senior national debut after coming in as a second half substitute in a friendly match against Tanzania last year in November and quickly made a strong case, establishing himself as an asset for the Warriors.
The former Prince Edward School pupil, who turned 21 yesterday, was also part of the Warriors’ local-based side that played a goalless draw against defending African champions Ivory Coast, in another international friendly match on Boxing Day in Abidjan.
In Gabon, Kadewere will have to fight for places against experienced campaigners like Cuthbert Malajila, Nyasha Mushekwi, Knowledge Musona, Evans Rusike, Tendai Ndoro and Matthew Rusike, who also made it into the travelling squad.
The talented former Harare City forward, who honed his skills at his late father Onias’ academy at the iconic Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield, has developed into a key player for Djurgardens and should provide the technical team with more options upfront.
In coming up with the travelling 23-man squad, Pasuwa largely kept faith with the squad that completed their Cup of Nations qualifiers with a perfect four wins, a single draw and one defeat.
Pasuwa dropped Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Nelson Chadya, FC Platinum’s Marshal Mudehwe and Farai Madhanaga of Harare City having been forced to train with 26 players due to financial challenges.
And as expected, such players like goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva, Khama Billiat, Costa Nhamoinesu, Marvelous Nakamba, Onismor Bhasera and Danny Phiri were all included in the squad. There were also places for Tanzania-based duo of Oscar Machapa and Bruce Kangwa.
The team is scheduled to leave for Yaounde, Cameroon, tomorrow where they will play the Indomitable Lions in their final friendly match, before heading to Franceville, Gabon in time for their tournament opener against Algeria on January 14.
The Warriors are in a tough Group B alongside continental powerhouses Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia with the matches being staged at the Stade de Franceville in Franceville, Gabon.
On paper, it’s one of the toughest groups of the tournament but team captain Willard Katsande this week revealed to the Daily News that at this level of the game there are no easy assignments and rankings usually count for nothing.
Algeria and Tunisia are former African champions while Senegal remain African giants and boast of some of the best talent who ply their trade in big European leagues.
“To be honest with you all, the three matches are going to be tough but we can only make it easy in terms of how we will apply our game plan,” Katsande said.
“To single out any team and say this one will be easy will not be fair because every match will bring its own experiences. The truth is that all the matches will be tough but we are ready to face the challenge and we are capable of upsetting any team.”
The Kaizer Chiefs midfield enforcer added that morale in the camp is high and they are all looking forward to do well when the tournament gets underway in eight days in Gabon.
“So far, I am quite satisfied although there is room for improvement. It’s work in progress and I think we are heading in the right direction in terms of combinations and tactics,” said Katsande.
“We are working on how we need to start the tournament and also what we want to achieve. The guys are responding well and we can only hope we will be able to apply what we are practising here when we get to Gabon.”
Katsande further asserts that for the Warriors to achieve their goal of qualifying for the quarterfinals it will take collective effort from all the players.
“We need to thrive on team effort. Team work will take us far. We are not going to concentrate on individuals, because as long as we work as a team, we can achieve better things. Unity is very key on what we need to achieve and as long as we have team work it will definitely take us far,” Katsande said.
“We have, of course, set ourselves a target of reaching the quarterfinals and we will see from there. We have our plan after the quarterfinals which we don’t want to expose at the moment. But what is important for now is to qualify from the group stages’’.
The Warriors received a huge boost following revelations that government is set to unveil over $800 000 package for the team’s campaign in Gabon while mobile network provider NetOne also chipped in with $250 000 sponsorship for the team’s running costs.
Warriors Final Squad:
Goalkeepers: Donovan Bernard (How Mine), Tatenda Mkuruva (Dynamos), Takabva Mawaya (ZPC Kariba)
Defenders: Costa Nhamoinesu (AC Sparta Praha), Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn) Elisha Muroiwa (Dynamos), Teenage Hadebe (Chicken Inn), Onismor Bhasera (Supersport United), Bruce Kangwa (Azam FC), Oscar Machapa (AS Vita Club), Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United)
Midfielders: Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs), Marvelous Nakamba (Vitesse Arnhem), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows), Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns)
Strikers: Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende), Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates), Tinotenda Kadewere (Djurgardens IF), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United), Matthew Rusike (Club Sportif Sfaxien), Cuthbert Malajila (Bidvest Wits)