By Sports Reporter
WARRIORS captain Knowledge Musona is hopping to help get the Zimbabwe senior national football team beyond the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals for the first time ever.
Musona will make his third successive appearance at the Afcon finals when he leads the Warriors in their opening Group B game against one of the pre-tournament favourites Senegal at the Bafoussam Omnisport Stadium on Monday.
The Warriors, who are featuring in the Afcon finals for the fifth time and have yet to make it out of the group stages of the continental football showpiece.
In the last edition held in Egypt two years ago, Zimbabwe narrowly missed out on a place in the quarterfinals, but Musona hopes the Cameroon 2021 edition will propel the team to a better finish.
“I have already played at two Afcon finals without progressing to the knockout stages, so doing it now will mean a lot to me as an individual and to the whole team, because it will be historic for every player. It’s an opportunity for us to show that we can perform at big tournaments like AFCON,” said Musona in an interview ahead of the first match.
Musona, who has been in good form at his Saudi Arabian Club Al Tai, welcomed the decision by the Zimbabwe authorities to allow the team to arrive early in Cameroon to prepare for the tournament.
Despite the boardroom squabbles in Zimbabwean football following the Sports and Recreation Commission’s decision to suspend the entire Zifa board, the Warriors landed in Cameroon 10 days before their opening match against Senegal on Monday.
“Coming in early was really important for us to be together for longer as a team, while we also acclimatise to the environment for those players who are based in places with different weather conditions. We still have more days to train, and we will be ready for our first game. I am confident that we will have a good tournament that will make the whole country proud,” he added.
Although Zimbabwe will be without big name players such as Marvelous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi and Brendan Galloway missing due to injuries, while Khama Billiat upheld his decision to retire from international football, Musona is confident that the team will do well.
“It’s unfortunate that we are missing some players who were with us during the qualifiers because of injuries and other issues, but I think we still have the quality to compete with any team. I definitely think that we are going to have a good tournament, especially with the preparations that we have done so far, and what we will still do in the remaining days,” Musona concluded.
Zimbabwe’s 23-man squad for the 2021 CAF Africa Cup of Nations:
Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari (FC Platinum), Martin Mapisa (FC Zamora, Spain), Talbert Shumba (Free State Stars, South Africa)
Defenders: Peter Muduwa (Highlanders), Alec Mudimu (Torpedo Kutaisi, Georgia), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Nkana, Zambia), Jordan Zemura (FC Bournemouth, England), Godknows Murwira, Gerald Takwara (Venda Football Academy, South Africa), Teenage Hadebe (Houston Dynamo, USA), Bruce Kangwa (Azam, Tanzania), Onismor Bhasera (SuperSport United, South Africa)
Midfielders: Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum), Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United, Zambia), Never Tigere (Azam, Tanzania), Ishmael Wadi (JDR Stars, South Africa), Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United, South Africa), Kundai Benyu (Vestri, Iceland)
Strikers: Admiral Muskwe (Luton Town, England), Prince Dube (Azam, Tanzania), David Moyo (Hamilton Academia, Scotland), Knowledge Musona (Altai, Saudi Arabia), Tinotenda Kadewere (Olympique Lyon, France).