BY HENRY MHARA
INJURIES and illness have hit the Warriors camp ahead of tomorrow’s must-win game against Burkina Faso in the ongoing African Nations Championships (Chan) tournament, with five players set to be ruled out, leaving coach Zdravko Logarušić (pictured) with just 15 infield players to pick from.
Smarting from their 10 defeat to hosts Cameroon in the opening match of the tournament on Saturday that left their chances of progressing hanging by a thread, the Zimbabwe coach has got a huge crisis in his camp to deal with.
Richard Hachiro and Ronald Chitiyo,who started the match against the Indomitable Lions, have been ruled out of tomorrow’s match after picking injuries during the game.
Hachiro is struggling with a knee injury, while Chitiyo was substituted later in the game due to an Achilles problem.
Three other players Andrew Mbeba, Qadr Amini and Thomas Chideu will also miss the match due to illness.
The trio were also unavailable for the first game.
This effectively leaves Logarušić with only 15 players at his disposal to choose from a team to face the Stallions, who are equally desperate to win the match after losing 1-0 to Mali in their first Group A match.
“This is a crisis we are faced with,” team manager Wellington Mupandare said yesterday.
“It’s a difficult situation for the coaches now because they don’t have a big pool to choose their squad from for this important match. We have a problem of fitness in the squad because of the problems that we all know, and this development can only complicate things.”
Logarušić had hoped to “refresh” his team for the Burkina Faso clash, but the unavailability of some of his stars will certainly muddle those plans.
This Chan continues to be a nightmarish experience for the Croat, who was forced to pick inactive players for the tournament after last season’s local Premier League failed to start due to COVID-19.
The players had not kicked a ball in a competitive game in over a year.
Then as the team was beginning to intensify their preparations, a bout of the deadly virus hit their camp, affecting nine players and six officials, resulting in discontinuation of training.
Cameroon and Mali top Group A with three points, and the two clash in another match tomorrow with the winner almost assured of a place in the quarter-finals.
Zimbabwe will need to avoid a defeat in tomorrow’s match to keep their hopes of progressing to the knockout stage.
A win will put them in a good position going into the final group game against Mali on Sunday.
“We watched the match between Mali and Burkina Faso, and I can say we have our work cut out. They are very good sides and we will need to be at our best if we are going to get something from the two games,” Mupandare added.
The top two teams in the group will progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament reserved for players plying their trade in their domestic leagues.
Zimbabwe are looking to progress beyond the group stages of the tournament for only the second time.
The only other time when they progressed was in 2014 when they went all the way to finish fourth.