By Eddie Chikamhi
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa says they need to keep a positive attitude after their preparations for the Easter double header against Swaziland in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers kicked off at a low note with half the squad turning up on the first day.
Zimbabwe have only two days to prepare for the crucial battles but most of their foreign-based players failed to make it on time for the group's first training session at Rufaro yesterday afternoon.
Defender Partson Jaure was among the early birds as only 13 players kicked off the preparations yesterday.
Jaure was joined by nine local based players and three other South Africa-based professionals who included in-form Maritzburg United forward Evans Rusike, midfielder Kuda Mahachi and Eric Chipeta.
Matthew Rusike, Knowledge Musona, Marvelous Nakamba and Washington Arubi trooped in yesterday evening.
Costa Nhamoinesu and Nyasha Mushekwi could all be in by late afternoon.
Harare City's Ronald Chitiyo was the only absentee among the local players as his team Harare City was only expected in the evening from a CAF Confederation Cup assignment in Zambia.
The Warriors are expected to leave tomorrow and Pasuwa and his charges are facing a challenging schedule since they could travel in batches because of problems with securing flights.
The good news is that chief striker Knowledge Musona arrived last night from his base in Belgium after he had missed his connecting flight from South Africa.
Goalkeeper Washington Arubi who was also reported to have been delayed after facing challenges with his passport finally joined camp late in the evening.
But things had been complicated for the Mamelodi Sundowns duo of Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat who are only expected tomorrow after facing flight hitches in Congo-Brazzaville where they had gone for a CAF Champions League tie against AC Leopards.
"I'm told there were elections in that country so they couldn't come back on time since there were no flights. So we expect them on Wednesday (tomorrow), if I'm not mistaken," said Pasuwa.
"For us to get good results we need to prepare well. We need to be focused. It's not a matter of saying we have already won before we have kicked the ball just because we are playing Swaziland.
"Remember the Swaziland that we are playing won against Guinea. So we need to be very positive in our approach in order to collect those six points."
"I told the players not to focus on the match-fixing allegations that are doing rounds. I told them to ignore all this and focus on the task at hand."
Left-back Onismor Bhasera, who has been called back after a long time, was also yet to report for duty as he had travelled with his club Bidvest Wits to play a Confederation Cup match against Azam.
Pasuwa and his assistant Saul Chaminuka had to train with only 11 players as defender Chipeta and Evans Rusike took part in a light training separately with fitness trainer Majaha Ndlovu.
Goalkeepers coach Richard Tswatswa was also yet to arrive from Zambia with Harare City.
"We were monitoring some of the guys. Some of them lacked game time so today we were trying to look at the conditioning part and then try to maintain what we have already.
"We can't do anymore of physical fitness in terms of our training. We are focusing more on the tactical part of it. We need as much as we can to come with a better preparation.
"Remember we had called 27 and three guys from England could not come. Of the remaining 24 we need 18 but I feel if funds permit we should have just travelled with everyone because if I leave the other batch here it would complicate things if we get an injury. Again it would mean they may not have the same training as the others for three days."
Zimbabwe were supposed to leave tomorrow morning but the fact that there could not get enough seats for the whole delegation could be a blessing in disguise as it gives Pasuwa an extra day to work with his boys before departure.
The Warriors, however, are likely to travel in batches tomorrow and on Thursday for the game which takes place in Swaziland on Friday.
The team will not break camp as they need to prepare for the return match scheduled for the National Sports Stadium on Easter Monday.
Pasuwa is aiming to collect six points over their opponents to bolster the Warriors campaign in the 2017 AFCON qualifiers. Angolans Helder Martins De Carvalho, Jerson Emiliano Dos Santos and Ivanildo Meirelles De O Sanche Lopes will handle the game with South African Mayixole Elvis Channel Shishana standing as the match commissioner.
Swaziland and Zimbabwe lead Group L with four points apiece. Zimbabwe beat Malawi 2-1 in the opening match of the campaign and then drew 1-1 with Guinea in the second match at home.
An away win in Swaziland in the first leg will see the Warriors going three points clear at the top of the four-team table.
Surprise group leaders Sihlangu are brimming with confidence in the back of a promising start following the surprise away win over West Africa giants Guinea in their opening match of the campaign and the draw with Malawi.
Goalkeepers: T. Mukuruva (Dynamos), D. Bernard (How Mine), W. Arubi (Pretoria University, SA).
Defenders: P. Jaure (Pretoria University, SA), H. Zvirekwi (CAPS United), E. Chipeta (Chippa United, SA), E. Muroiwa (Dynamos), L. Mhlanga (Chicken Inn), C. Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague, Czech Republic), B. Kangwa (Highlanders), O. Bhasera (Wits University, SA).
Midfielders: W. Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), R. Chitiyo (Harare City), M. Nakamba (Vitesse, Netherlands), D. Phiri (Chicken Inn), K. Mahachi (Golden Arrows, SA), M. Mudehwe (FC Platinum), M. Bonne (Colchester, England), T. Kutinyu (Chicken Inn).
Forwards: K. Musona (KV Oostende, Belgium), N. Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang, China), C. Malajila (Sundowns, SA) M. Rusike (Helsingborgs IF, Sweden), E. Rusike (Maritzburg, SA), K. Billiat (Sundowns, SA).
Source: All Africa