BY TERRY MADYAUTA

FORMER Zimbabwe national football team midfielder Lazarus Muhoni has warned of the potential hazards that the Warriors could face if the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) fail to organise preparatory matches for the team ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers coming up this November.

Zifa have already ruled out organising friendly matches in the Warriors’ run-up to the qualifiers, while other nations such as Zambia and South Africa have already scheduled preparatory matches.

Coach Zdracko Logarusic will be working with the players for the first time having been idle since March.

A fortnight ago, Zifa president Felton Kamambo cast doubts on the possibility of playing friendly matches as a result of the restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Zifa are reluctant to organise friendly matches for Warriors ahead of the crucial qualifier for Afcon 2021 to be staged in Cameroon and World Cup 2022 to be hosted by Qatar, their Cosafa counterparts, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia will be fine-tuning their squads in friendly matches slated for next month.

South Africa is set to take on Namibia on October 8 at the Independence Stadium in Windhoek and has also booked Zambia for a friendly date at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg on October 13.

Africa has five slots at the World Cup, which means 10 group winners will advance to the final round of qualifying matches to determine the representatives after two-legged affairs.
Muhoni feels that the Warriors’ chances of qualifying could be compromised if preparations are shoddy.

The Warriors are in for a tough schedule starting in November, where they will face Algeria on November 9 and 17 in the Afcon qualifiers before clashing with Zambia and Botswana in one window between March 21 and 30 next year.

In an interview with the NewsDay Sport, Muhoni said Logarusic would be under pressure to deliver under difficult circumstances.“This is a big blow for the team and nation as a whole,” Muhoni opined.

“Despite the fact that we are in a difficult time where there is the coronavirus, Zifa should at least organise one or two friendly matches for the team.

“If not, we’ll have to accept that we have slim chances of progressing because of ill-preparedness.

“The friendly would make it easier for our coach who is new and foreign to get a better understanding of the players and also for him to establish combinations rather than the see-as-you-go approach we are taking.

“Even a school student cannot go into a final examination without preparing and expect to pass. Likewise we must do that so that our coach gets to combine the players that could be at his disposal.”

He said not all the foreign-based players that are likely to be invited for the November matches have been enjoying regular game time, hence the need for friendlies.
“Obviously, foreign-based players are going to form the backbone of the team but not all of them have been in action, hence the need for testing of our squad’s strength before indulging,” he said.

The former Dynamos midfielder challenged Zifa to improvise in the remaining 52 days before the qualifiers.

“This cannot be like a money game where players use a squatter bomb approach, because we need to be organised.

“The coach is foreign which means he knows few players perhaps because he watched them on television, so he needs to assess them on his own.
“But the local assistant coaches will have to play a key role in recommending, otherwise we’ll struggle.”

Since being appointed head coach in January, Loga trained locally-based players over a two-week period as they prepared for the African Nations Championship tournament which was later cancelled due to COVID-19.

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