Zimbabwe take on Botswana in ten days time with a place at the AFCON finals up for grabs.
Zdravko Logarušić’s charges have no excuses; they simply have to beat the Zebras, regardless of the unavailability of key players, according to renowned football analyst Makomborero Mutimukulu.
Mutimukulu, just like Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare, recons the team has enough arsenal to get the job done, making failure to qualify for AFCON inexcusable.
Without Khama Billiat, Tendayi Darikwa, Marvelous Nakamba, Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi, David Moyo, Admiral Muskwe and Prince Dube, Logarušić has to dig deep to get a result in Botswana.
How then can he set up his not so oiled machine, in a bid to get the win and inch closer to becoming the first foreign coach to take Zimbabwe to African football’s greatest extravaganza?
In goal, Loga has Tatenda Mkuruva, Martin Mapisa, Talbert Shumba and Ariel Sibanda but if I were the Croat, I would pick Mkuruva.
The former Dynamos shot-stopper has seen it all. He was in goal and was impressive during the AFCON 2017 qualifying campaign and was also the reason why Senegal did not beat the Warriors by a netball scoreline at the finals in Gabon.
That he is playing in the third tier of American football is neither here no there; there are many Warriors players playing in worse football leagues but still come home and deliver in gold and green.
Mapisa is an excellent goalkeeper with very bright future in the Warriors fold but handing him his debut in these decisive games would be big gamble.
At right back, in the absence of the ever-reliable Darikwa, Loga can opt for Chicken Inn’s Ian Nekati.
Nekati admittedly had lackluster CHAN 2021 in Cameroon but he has demonstrated what he is capable of previously, in the dramatic win over Somalia at the National Sports Stadium, as well as the Zambia win in Lusaka.
At left-back, Divine Lunga should comfortably apply himself.
It is in central defense where Loga might perhaps have a selection headache; whether to go with Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu or continue with Hadebe-Jimmy Dzingai experiment, which honestly did well against Algeria in the 2-2 draw in November last year.
Eventually, I would settle for Hadebe and Mudimu.
In the defensive midfield role, the absence of Nakamba and Munetsi will be a huge difference-maker. The Warriors struggled even with Nakamba in, against Algeria, with the Aston Villa man lacking a complimentary partner in the mould of the Stade de Reims midfield enforcer, hence the absence of both is a massive blow.
Against this background, perhaps the best decision would be to put captain Knowledge Musona in that role,since he sometimes plays in it at KAS Eupen and partner Thabani Kamusoko or Butho Ncube, though that suggestion is obviously vulnerable to severe criticism.
In attacking midfield, not including Ovidy Karuru would be a big surprise considering his current form, hence the lanky Black Leopards man should comfortably get the job done, with Kuda Mahachi’s trickery in the elimination of defenders also needed.
Upfront, having two centre forwards in a 4-4-2 setup might work, hence in the absence of Kadwewere, the duo of Knox Mutizwa and Evans Rusike can get the much needed goals.
Preferred Warriors starting eleven (4-4-2): Tatenda Mkuruva, Ian Nekati, Teenage Hadebe, Alec Mudimu, Divine Lunga, Thabani Kamusoko, Knowledge Musona, Ovidy karuru, Kuda Mahachi, Evans Rusike, Knox Mutizwa.