ZIMBABWE’s Warriors flew into Liberia late yesterday afternoon to a great vibe in the city of Monrovia as they brace for a tough encounter against the hosts battling to revive a 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign that has gone off the rails.
The Warriors face the Lone Star at the Samuel Kenyon Doe Sports Complex at 4pm (6pm Zimbabwean time) on Sunday.
They touched down in Monrovia around 4pm (Liberian time) yesterday, following a 20-hour jaunt that took them through Johannesburg, Kenya and Sierra Leone due to the complexities that characterise flights on the continent.
However, captain Knowledge Musona and two other Europe-based players Marvelous Nakamba and Alec Mudimu are only expected to join the rest of the squad today.
The Warriors lead Group G with eight points going into the penultimate round of the qualifiers and they need just a point in the last two games to confirm their place at next year’s finals in Cameroon.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s men are set to train at the match venue today.
They will have another practice session tomorrow where they hope to finalise their game plan and continue with what has been an impressive campaign to date.
Speaking from Liberia yesterday, ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said Monrovia has been reverberating the whole week in anticipation of the game.
Gwesela travelled earlier to Liberia as part of the senior team’s advance party.
The ZIFA spokesman said despite the tickets being pegged at US$300 for VVIP and $5 for the cheapest seat, there was a wave of huge expectations among the Liberians that their side will avenge for the 3-0 loss they suffered in Harare last year.
Liberia revived their slim hopes of qualifying when they beat Congo Brazzaville in their last home assignment and this has raised the stakes in Sunday’s game.
“We were received well by the Liberian Football Association and they are very hospitable.
“The weather is hot and humid, the Warriors start training tomorrow (today) and get to acclimatise.
“I have noticed that this game is the talk of the town. It promises to be an interesting match,” said Gwesela.
The Zimbabweans did not camp at home to avoid draining the players because of the complex nature of the itinerary to Liberia.
There are no direct flights from Zimbabwe to Liberia.
As a result, ZIFA said there was no need to fly the bulk of the players who ply their trade in South Africa and Europe home first and then take them on a long flight to Liberia ahead of an important game.
Instead, it was the local contingent led by the technical team who departed from Harare and had to link up with the South Africa-based players in Johannesburg, while the European legion are set to fly straight to Liberia.
Zimbabwe lead the group with eight points and are followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo who have five points.
The team has been boosted by the return of Tino Kadewere and Evans Rusike from injury, while skipper Musona and Mudimu, who both missed the last encounter against DRC because of suspensions, have returned.
Former skipper Willard Katsande has also been recalled to provide grit in the midfield following the injury to Danny Phiri.
Liberia are bottom of Group G, tied on four points with Congo-Brazzaville.
The Lone Star started camp last Sunday with a host of locally based players and were boosted yesterday by the arrivals of team captain William Jerbo of Wydad Casablanca, Mohammed Sangare of Newcastle and Boison Wynney de Souza of Real Mollorca II of Spain.
The trio joined Joel Johnson Alajarin of Charlotte Independence and Tonia Tisdell of Denizlispor of Turkey who arrived in the country earlier.
Kpah Sherman and Allen Njie have since arrived in the country while the rest of the players are expected this afternoon.
These include Anthony Laffor of Mamelodi Sundowns, Oscar Murphy Dorley of Slovan Liberec and Sylvannus Nimely of Sparta Moscow.
Newcastle’s Sangare, who relocated to England when he was still 14, is expected to make his long-awaited debut for the Lone Star after regularising his papers.
Senegalese referee Maguette Ndiaye will take charge of the encounter and will be assisted by compatriots Djibril Camara and El Hadji Malick Samba.
Alioune Sow Sandigui was assigned as the fourth official. The Senegalese referee, along with his two assistants, recently officiated an African Champions League semi-final match between Primeiro de Augosto of Angola and Esperance de Tunis of Tunisia at the Estádio 11 De Novembro in Angola.
Tadeo Nsue Onva of Equatorial Guinea has been assigned as Match Commissioner.
Zimbabwe Provisional Squad
George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs)
Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates)
Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum)
Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Tinotenda Kadewere (Le Havre AC)-Herald