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THE Warriors squad for the COSAFA tournament might not have had the best of preparations, but the side left for their aenture in South Africa in positive spirits as they look to progress from the group phase which kicks-off tomorrow in Rustenburg.

Zimbabwe have a longer route at this year’s tournament after they were placed in Group A alongside Namibia, Mauritius and Seychelles.

The winner in this group will meet holders Zambia in the quarter-finals.

Goalkeeper George Chigova said they are aiming for a clean record to have a smooth passage to the knock-out stage.

Chigova, who was one of the stand-out players when Zimbabwe reached the semi-finals of the CHAN tournament last year, said they were favourites to progress from their group which has Mauritius, Namibia and Seychelles.

“This is a fresh tournament. It’s a new ball game (altogether) and we have to be prepared because we need to win all three games to make it to the quarter-finals,” he said.

“Seychelles, Mauritius and Namibia could be small names in world football, but nowadays there are no longer small teams.

“We must be prepared the same way we prepare to face a big team. We must have the right mentality and not underestimate our opponents,” said Chigova.

The giant goalkeeper is one of the players with considerable experience in this youthful squad that was called up by coach Callisto Pasuwa for duty.

The likes of Talent Chawapihwa, Tichaona Chipunza and Raphael Manuvire will be provided with the stage to shine.

Chigova, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Partson Jaure and Danny Phiri are expected to provide support.

Ronald Chitiyo was a late inclusion in the squad, while the technical team also added the Hwange duo of Pritchard Mpelele and Evans Rusike to boost their attack.

The Warriors’ biggest undoing, however, could be their shoddy preparations.

The team only had two days of training before their departure, yet some of their opponents have been in camps since last month for both the COSAFA tournament and the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers that take place next month.

Warriors team manager for the tournament Charles Mukaronda said the technical team has been doing their best to psyche up the players.

The team also had the leader of Prophetic and Healing Deliverance Ministry, Walter Magaya, chipping in at the last minute with a R560 000 donation which went towards air tickets and settling part of the players’ allowances before they left.

“Everything is in place. Our spirits were uplifted by the timely intervention of the man of God Prophet Walter Magaya, who chipped in with tremendous support for the team.

“Our travel arrangements were very smooth and we were battling to pay off the players all the monies for the time they had been in camp.

“We understand they are family men and we have to make sure that they don’t have to worry much about their dues back home.

“Once we get in South Africa, the issues of accommodation will be taken care of by the organisers of the tournament. So, we are hoping everyone will be focused on playing football and delivering for the country,” said Mukaronda.

The Warriors were runners-up at the last edition of the tournament when they lost 0-2 to Zambia in 2013.

Ironically, they will meet Zambia again if they progress from the preliminary round.

Zimbabwe and Zambia are the most successful teams in the history of the tournament having won the silverware four times apiece.

Warriors squad:

George Chigova (SuperSport, SA), Donovan Bernard (How Mine), Tatenda Munditi (Harare City), Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United), Douglas Sibanda (Highlanders), Justice Jangano (Gunners), Patson Jaure, Ralph Kawondera (Flame Lilly), Danny Phiri (Chicken Inn), Thomas Magorimbo (ZPC Kariba), Livingstone Genti (Whawha), Raphael Manuvire (ZPC Kariba), Ronald Chitiyo (Dynamos), Tinashe Chipunza (Triangle), Carlos Rusere (Dynamos), Talent Chawapiwa (Harare City), Pritchard Mpelele (Hwange), Evans Rusike (Hwange).

Source : The Herald