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THE Zimbabwe Under-23 surprised Cameroon with their quality but the West Africans believe they have the strength to turn the tables in the return leg of the All-Africa Games second round qualifiers in Yaoundeacute next weekend.

The Young Warriors will carry a slender lead to West Africa after they edged the Under-23 side of the Indomitable Lions 1-0 at Rufaro on Sunday.

Wisdom Mutasa scored the only goal of the match.

Cameroon’s assistant coach, Emmanuel Maboang Kessack, said he was surprised by the quality of the Young Warriors.

The Cameroonians pride themselves as the most successful country in the tournament after winning the All-Africa Games gold medal four times in 1991, 1999, 2003 and 2007.

Kessack said Zimbabwe should expect to meet a completely new team as they are gearing to bring in most of their European-based professionals to rescue the tie at their backyard.

“Zimbabwe played very well. They showed they wanted to win that game, they really wanted to win that game and I thought Zimbabwe had a chance to score a second goal,” said Kessack.

“In fact, I was so surprised by this Zimbabwe side. They are young and very quick.

“The country should be happy and try to keep this team intact for the next two or three years to be the national team. They need to protect these young players.

“But as for our team we will bring in more than 10 players from outside the country who are younger and quicker for the return match.

“Our team did not play very well and I was thinking that Zimbabwe would press us in the second half but then I saw they were afraid to go forward.

“There was that possibility to score and that goal was going to be the goal of qualification but now with a 1-0 lead, I would think that it will be very difficult for them to qualify in Yaoundeacute.”

He said the playing conditions in Yaounde will be different.

“It will be very difficult because the field is different, the playing conditions are different and the atmosphere is different as well.

“This is the first time our team was playing on artificial surface like this. In Yaoundeacute we have grass and I think it will be a different game.

“We will use everything to qualify,” said Kessack.

The return match will be played over the weekend of April 10-11 and will be handled by a team of Senegalese referees.

Young Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa indicated the need for proper preparation if they hope to qualify for the finals of the tournament to be held in Congo-Brazzaville in September.

They are hoping to emulate the Young Warriors team of the early 1990s.

During their peak, the Young Warriors finished fourth at the 1991 edition in Egypt and were runners-up at the next edition which Zimbabwe hosted in 1995.

The technical team is hoping to secure all the players they need for the return leg which is now a make-or-break assignment.

Pasuwa was not happy with the unavailability of players and lack of support in this campaign.

The coaches met with resistance from clubs such as CAPS United, FC Platinum and Highlanders who were reluctant to release their players as they had wanted to use them for their season-opening matches.

The coaches were forced to make last minute changes after Highlanders withdrew their two players Thomas Chideu and Nqobizitha Masuku on Saturday for their match against ZPC Kariba.

However, zifa have indicated they will formally engage the Premier Soccer League and the clubs to make sure Pasuwa travels with the best players as chances to secure foreign-based players such as Kuda Mahachi, Macauley Bonne, Munya Mbanje and Marvelous Nakamba remain slim.

zifa communications manager, Xolisani Gwesela, said the Olympic team, which has another assignment next month against Swaziland in the caf Under-23 Championship qualifiers next month, need to be supported.

“The concerns raised by Pasuwa are valid but the clubs also had a g argument which made a lot of sense. They said they have a congested programme and it is also true that this game is not on the fifa calendar.

“It is very unfortunate but we will need to engage with the Premier Soccer League and the clubs to reach a common ground.

“We need to give our national Under-23 team all the support they need.

“In fact, the ZIFA board will be meeting next week and the issue of the players and the national teams will be on top of the agenda,” said Gwesela.

Source : The Herald