Warriors' talismanic forward Knowledge Musona says interim coach Norman Mapeza chose the players he believes can deliver for the team and has asked the nation to rally behind them as they start their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Liberia on Sunday.The 26-year-old forward joined camp at the Yadah Hotel Complex yesterday after completing a fine season in which he qualified for the UEFA Europa League next season with his Belgian side KV Oostende.
Musona says he is keen to transform his good form to the Warriors in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.
His arrival in camp yesterday gave the Warriors a massive boost on their final week of preparations for the opening Group G match against the Lone Star. Musona had delayed joining camp as he had to feature in the Belgian Cup final last week which ended in a 3-1 win for KV Oostende over KRC Genk.
The success earned them the ticket to represent the Jupiler Pro- League in the UEFA Europa League, a tournament that was won by English giants Manchester United recently, next season.
"I believe everyone who was called into the squad deserves to be there. "Most of these guys are doing well at their various clubs. So I think the coach did a very good job choosing a strong team although some were overlooked," he said.
Reports, especially on social media sites, had indicated that some of the high-profile players like Musona were set to boycott the Warriors in protest over the omission of their teammates Nyasha Mushekwi, Willard Katsande, Cuthbert Malajila and Matthew Rusika.
But Musona appeared relaxed on his first day at the exclusive camping site, which has been provided for the team by football-mad prophet Walter Magaya and asked for support from the nation.
The KV Oostende man was also impressed by the camping facilities on his first day of joining the team at the Yadah Complex in Prospect. "I think this is the best place I have stayed since I came for duty with the national team.
"In everything, when you start with good preparation like this, it's good for everyone," said Musona. "You know, some times it's not just about the football on the
pitch, but it's also about how you prepare; the accommodation, just the environment around the team. "So I think this is the perfect place for us. It's very quiet, with a nice field, very good accommodation and we are eating good food. Everyone is happy. I am sure even the guys who are back in the team after a very long time are also happy. The mood in the camp is just good. I hope it will end like this with a win come Sunday."
Musona said he was delighted some players like Marvelous Nakamba also had good seasons in which he also helped his side Vitesse Arnhem of the Netherlands qualify for Europe's second tier competition. The 26-year-old was the star of the previous campaign when his three goals helped Zimbabwe qualify, for the first time in 11 years, to the AFCON finals that were held in Gabon.
The Warriors began their preparations last week under interim coach Norman Mapeza. And Musona, impressed by the spirit in the team's camp, is convinced they stand a good chance if they can start well like they did in the previous campaign when they beat Malawi and when on the grab the ticket from a group that also included Swaziland and Guinea.
Zimbabwe have been placed in a tougher Group G which also features Central African giants Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo-Brazzaville.
"I think it's a new challenge to everyone in the squad. You can't say there isn't a chance to qualify. As it stands everyone has a chance because we haven't even played the first matches," said Musona.
"But I think it all depends on how we are going to play the first game. In every qualification the first game is the most crucial game especially if you are playing at home. You have to collect maximum points at all costs so that you can set the tone for the coming games.
"But in African football you never know, the so-called big teams are being surprised every day. So the most important thing isn't about looking at our opponents, but to focus on winning each and every game that we play.
"I'm sure it's a tough group and it's a new challenge for us all because our opponents are also preparing and they also do not want to lose a game.
"Liberia will be coming here to fight. So we are trying to take each game as it comes. Consequently, we are looking at this match and then afterwards we will see how it goes when we resume next year. "I am sure like what we did last time, when we started at home, we will also end the campaign well and there is need to work hard," said Musona.
He said combinations were key. "We have to come up with good combinations and we have to work very hard together," he said. "Some of the players in the squad have had great seasons with their clubs but some didn't.
"And now this is national team. The difference is that at the national team you get to play with different players that you haven't been training with for long, unlike at clubs. It might need some time for you to click."