Owen Da Gama’s charges travel to Harare to face Zimbabwe in the first leg of the African U-23 Championship qualifier match on Sunday afternoon
The Zimbabwe Under-23 team coach Calisto Pasuwa is banking on forwards Kuda Mahachi, Walter Musona and Knox Mutizwa to provide the goal threat in Sunday’s first leg clash at home against South Africa.
The winner of the regional showdown secures a ticket to the eight-team African U-23 Championship to be staged in Senegal in December. The tournament will determine Africa’s representatives at the Olympic Games in Rio next year.
Pasuwa’s class of 2015 have already displayed some commendable fighting spirit after dispatching Cameroon 2-1 on aggregate to reach the finals of this year’s All-Africa Games.
However, the Young Warriors needed the away goal rule to beat Swaziland in the first round of the Olympic qualifiers after a 2-2 aggregate score-line, having struggled to utilise home advantage in the first leg which ended in a goalless draw.
The South Africans on their part, are yet to do anything earth-shattering, with their record showing that they were not good enough to overcome Sudan, who dumped them out of the All-Africa Games qualifiers.
Yet that could make them even more dangerous as they go all out to ensure they compensate for that setback by making headway in the Olympic qualifiers.
The Young Warriors might not find it easy to escape this time around should they put up another nervy display in front the home crowd and Pasuwa can look to Mahachi, Musona, and Mutizwa to sharpen things a little in the final third.
The 44-year-old coach is particularly impressed about the enthusiasm Mahachi has shown in training.
“The boy is really sharp. He is leading the pack in terms of fitness and he really wants to play. He is not having enough game time at his club and believes this is the opportunity to prove a point. He is very eager. Anything can happen in a game but he is raring to go,” Pasuwa told the Herald newspaper this week.
Twenty-year-old Musona is another potential match winner. He has missed the Young Warriors’ last four competitive encounters, with his FC Platinum side turning down Pasuwa’s entreaties for their star.
Former U-20 star Mutizwa on the other hand, has burst into form with six goals in Highlanders’ last six matches to write his name on the elite list of the country’s brightest young prospects.
Owen Da Gama will rely on the experience of Siphelele Ntshangase, who has been a regular in the senior national team starting line-up in recent times, while the presence of Kwanda Mngonyama in defence should be just about enough to keep a vital cleansheet away from home.
Abbubaker Mobara will also be key for the South Africans, having done well for himself in the previous season.