ZIMBABWE may have been robbed of some of its star players due to Covid-19 international travelling restrictions, but they are not alone, with their opponents for the upcoming tie, Botswana, also affected by the absence of at least three key men.

The Warriors travel to Francistown on Wednesday for their Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifier against the Zebras the following day, in a showdown in which coach Zdravko Logarusic need to win to guarantee the team’s prospects of deciding its own fate.

Zimbabwe with five points, lie second behind African champions Algeria, whose 10 points tally saw them become the first team from Group H to seal one of the two qualification slots.

Botswana are third with four points and Zambia — a point below — anchor the group standings in a delicate race for second place.

The Warriors — already robbed of the services of the England- and France-based contingent — have been dealt another blow, with Golden Arrows striker Knox Mutizwa ruled out because of injury.

United States-based goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva is not available because of Covid-19 international travel restrictions that have similarly ruled out Marvelous Nakamba, Tendayi Darikwa, Tinotenda Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi and Jordan Zemura.

From latest developments, it seems the Warriors are not alone, as Botswana are set to miss at least three of their key players.

Kabelo Seakanyeng and Tumisang Orebonye, who ply their trade in Morocco, are unable to travel because of measures that have been imposed by the North African country, while midfielder Maestro Mothusi Cooper is suspended after accumulating three yellow cards in the qualifiers.

But it is the Warriors who have been hardest hit, and Loga yesterday admitted he was having a headache ahead of the trip to Francistown.

He now has to make do without nine key players.

“The game against Botswana will be, of course, very difficult for us because we never expected that we will play that game missing nine players whom we had when we played Algeria . . . and we have to deal with the situation,” said Loga.

He acknowledged the game won’t be an easy one as both teams still stand a chance of booking a place at the AFCON finals in Cameroon.

“It is a difficult game. They are a point behind us, and that means a lot to us. They are still six points in the basket and let’s see how things will go, but I remain optimistic and will be optimistic,” said the Croat.

Although the majority of his players will not be available, he was able to smile following confirmation that defenders Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu are among those that will fly into Harare to link-up with the rest of the Warriors.

Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare told The Sunday Mail Sport that confirmation on availability of Spanish-based goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, Hadebe and Mudimu was a huge relief for the technical department.

“We are happy that we will be getting some of the players that we had selected for these crucial ties. It is only those from England and France that won’t be available. Remember, due to the travelling restrictions, we had kept our fingers crossed,” he said.

Mpandare said defender Kelvin Moyo, who is down with a bout of malaria, had also been added to the casualty list.

“It has been a very difficult time for us due to the Covid-19 travelling restrictions and also the injuries the latest player being Knox Mutizwa and Kevin Moyo.

“We would have wanted all our players to be in for this crucial tie but I am confident that those that have made it will make the nation proud and do a professional job,” said Mpandare.

With the squad having a number of new faces, Mpandare has challenged the debutants to seize the opportunity and stake a claim for regular places in the Warriors.

“We have some new faces coming to the fold, and this will be an opportunity for them to contend for places in the World Cup qualifiers coming up in May,” he said.

With travelling to Francistown having threatened to be a challenge in the last two weeks, the Warriors manager confirmed that the hurdle had now been sorted as the Warriors will now have to fly to Francistown on March 24.

“I am happy that the travelling challenges that we faced in going to Francistown have now been sorted by the Botswana Football Association as we can now fly straight from Johannesburg to Francistown.

“This is good news to us and the technical department.”

With all players expected in camp on March 23, the team will depart for Botswana on March 24 ahead of their fixture against the Zebras the following day.

They will return to Zimbabwe a day after the match for the last group match against Zambia on the night of March 29 at the National Sports Stadium.

Zimbabwe Squad:

Goalkeepers: Talbert Shumba, Ariel Sibanda, Martin Mapisa

Defenders: Jimmy Dzingai, Alec Mudimu, Divine Lunga, Teenage Hadebe, Victor Kamhuka, Tendai jirira, Romario Matova, Takudzwa Chimwemwe

Midfielders: Butholezwe Ncube, Ovidy Karuru, Thabani Kamusoko, Tafadzwa Rusike, Tanaka Chinyahara, Last Jesi, Kudakwashe Mahachi

Strikers: Knowledge Musona, Evans Rusike, Terence Dzvukamanja, Perfect Chikwende

sunday mail zimbabwe