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'The best Warriors squad ever'

by Staff reporter
04 Apr 2021 at 22:30hrs | Views
DEFENDER Onismor Bhasera rates the current Warriors squad as one of the best in the history of the senior men's national team and believes they have what it takes to qualify for the knockout stages of the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.

Dubbed the "Golden Generation", the Knowledge Musona-captained side sealed their third straight Afcon finals qualification last month with a win over Botswana.

They booked their place to the finals set for Cameroon next year in January, with a game to spare.

"We have had the best national teams over the past few years and the current one is up there," Bhasera opined.

"It's not a fluke for the team to qualify three times in a row to the Afcon finals. This is a very good squad. The guys are very enthusiastic, they work hard and are ready to go miles to achieve more. They are all doing very well in their respective clubs which is good for the national team."

"Hopefully, they can bring that same club form to the national team. The next thing for the team now is to go beyond the group stages and that would be a big thing for the country."

Bhasera echoed Musona's calls for Zifa and the government to start putting resources together for the team so that players will not be distracted by off-field shows.

Musona last week told NewsDay that Zimbabwe could have done better at the last 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt had the players not been preoccupied with fights against Zifa over appearance fees and bonuses.

"Zifa and the Sports ministry and the football fraternity should put their heads together and start the preparations in terms of housekeeping things," Bhasera said.

"It should be just focus for the players on the goal which is to work for the country and not any other issues lingering around. It's a good thing that the team qualified early so there is time for Zifa and the government to engage so that the team goes there with a clear mind. I hope everything will be sorted because I know we have the guys who can do the job and raise the flag higher. This time I see the guys going beyond the group stages."

Zifa president Felton Kamambo has promised thorough preparations this time. He said they have already drafted contracts for the players, something that they didn't do last time. He said the contracts, which will stipulate what each player will get at the finals, will be finalised before September this year.

Bhasera was a last-minute inclusion for the trip to Botswana after a number of players withdrew from the squad and he went on to play the whole match as Zimbabwe won 1-0.

The veteran defender also played the full match in the dead rubber clash against Zambia last week.

Bhasera (35) returned to the Warriors set-up after a four-year absence having last featured for the team at the 2017 Afcon finals.

"As senior players in the squad, it's good to work with this young talented squad that works very hard, listen to advice and that makes it a special squad.

"The challenge for players from now to January is to continue to work hard and maintain form so that they will come and do the job. They need to give the coach a headache on who to pick because the players are capable of doing great things," Bhasera said.

The only other surviving members from that 2017 Afcon squad still with the national team are Musona, Khama Billiat, Teenage Hadebe, Kuda Mahachi, Marvelous Nakamba, Evans Rusike and Tino Kadewere.

"I feel a lot of pride in representing the country. It's a great feeling and I love it. After being absent from the team for a long time, it was good to play again. Away from the pitch it was nice to meet and make new friends with young players coming up to the national team set up. I am happy to be part of the team."

Bhasera made full use of the opportunity given to him with a good performance against Botswana.

After the match, Warriors coach Zdravko LogaruĊĦic sang praises of the veteran defender who he said was in line for selection for the Afcon finals.

"The left-back is a position I have played for quite a number of years now so it should be a fit for me. I don't need to have a script or something of what to do. I can understand easily so I can easily jump in there and fit. In terms of tactics, I will need just a few instructions. Speed might no longer be there because of my age, but it is more of using my brain now and reading the game very carefully. That is the most important thing and it saves me a lot of running, when you read your game well and anticipate things before they happen. I was very comfortable (against Botswana and Zambia) because I have been doing that for years."

"It makes me very happy (to be praised by the coach) and I was over the moon when the coach said he is going to consider me for selection for the Afcon finals. I will just have to continue working very hard, head down like what I have been doing for the past years. I need to be playing regularly at my club so that when the time comes I will be ready and fit. I'm looking forward to it, to another challenge with the team."

But before the Warriors players can think about the Afcon finals, they have an immediate task of qualifying for 2022 Qatar World Cup finals, with the qualifiers starting in June. They will use the qualifiers as preparations for the Afcon finals.

Zimbabwe gets their World Cup Goup G qualifying campaign underway with a home match against South Africa between June 5 and 8, before travelling to Ethiopia the following week.

The qualifiers resume in September with back-to-back clashes against Ghana in the first week of that month. The Warriors will travel to South Africa between October 10 and 12 and wrap up their campaign with a home match against Ethiopia the following week. The top team in the group will progress to the final qualifying round where they join nine other group winners from the continent to play home-and-away over two legs. The five winners will represent Africa at the World Cup finals in Qatar next year.

Source - newsday

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