9 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Kapini Boosts Warriors

The Warriors last night received a timely boost ahead of this afternoon's crunch 2013 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) first leg, final round qualifier match against Angola following the return to fitness of inspirational captain, Tapuwa Kapini.

Kapini had been doubtful for the match with an ankle injury, leaving coach Rahman Gumbo with the inexperienced duo of George Chigova and Ariel Sibanda.

The 28-year-old, who arrived in the country on Friday, trained with the rest of the team yesterday afternoon before passing a late fitness test last night.

The AmaZulu skipper also trained twice last week with his club who were reluctant to release him.

Team doctor, Nick Munyonga, confirmed the player's availability.

"We have certified him fit and he is going to play. We assessed him as soon as he arrived before another assessment today (yesterday)," said Munyonga.

Kapini's return to fitness has heightened Warriors assistant coach, Peter Ndlovu's hopes of reliving memories of March 27 2005 when Zimbabwe beat Angola 2-0 in a 2006 World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium.

Ndlovu captained the Warriors side that halted Angola's unbeaten run in that campaign, thanks to second half goals by Benjani Mwaruwari and substitute Shingi Kawondera. Zimbabwe revenged on Angola after a 53rd Flavio headed goal had sunk them in the reverse fixture at the Estadio da Citadela in Luanda five months earlier.

While Angola's defeat did not count much as they went on to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, Ndlovu is this time eager to see the Warriors grab a convincing lead that would carry them to the Afcon finals to be staged in South Africa next year.

Kapini and Esrom Nyandoro are the surviving playing members of that squad while Angola have goalkeeper Lama and Cyprus-based midfielder Gilberto.

"Those were some of the great moments with the Warriors. Although it is now history, the boys can be motivated and feel that it is very much possible to beat Angola," said Ndlovu, a veteran of more than 100 battles in Warriors colours.

However Gumbo's charges would have to defy the chaotic preparations that even saw some players reporting late for camp.

This is in stark contrast to the Angolans who had a training camp in South Africa last week.

The absence of German-based chief striker Knowledge Musona, would limit the coaching department's striking options with only the limping Takesure Chinyama and the local-based trio of Rodwell Chinyengetere, Nelson Maziwisa and Donald Ngoma to choose from.

"One man does not make a team. I am not saying Knowledge is not a vital part of our team but sometimes you just have to make do with what you have," said Gumbo.

The match is likely to witness fans apathy with the cheapest ticket costing US$10.

What could be Gumbo's relief is that Angola have been winless in their last four competitive matches, with their last victory being a 2-0 win against Burkina Faso at the Afcon finals early this year.

The Angolans arrived into the country at midday on Friday and like the Warriors, have been shying away from the local media.

Coach Gustavo Ferrin would be making his first competitive touchline appearance for the Palancas Negras after replacing sacked Lito Vidigal in July.

The 53-year-old Uruguayan chose to retreat into his own shell and not talk about the match.

"I will not give a comment until after the match. We will do the talking on the pitch first," said Ferrin.

Real Valladolid striker and captain Manucho expressed readiness for the battle.

"If we were not ready to play we would not have come here," said the former Manchester United striker.

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