14 August 2018

Zimbabwe: Sharp Shooters Show . . . Mushekwi Comes Face-to-Face With Congolese Hitman

Photo: New Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean Striker Nyasha Mushekwi (file photo).

High-flying Zimbabwe international forward Nyasha Mushekwi takes his goal-scoring spree to the Chinese capital Beijing today where he will come face-to-face with the most expensive African footballer of all-time, Cedric Bukambu, in a possible rehearsal of their AFCON showdown in October.

The 30-year-old Mushekwi was the toast of the Chinese Super League on Friday when he scored a stunning hat-trick as he led his club Dalian Yifang to a 3-0 demolition of Guangzhou R&F in a league match at the Dalian Sports Centre.

That took Mushekwi's tally to seven goals, half the number of goals which leading scorer Wu Lei of China has scored, but considering that the Zimbabwean was overlooked by his team's former coach, at the beginning of the season, this has been a remarkable return for the giant striker.

Nigeria's World Cup striker Odion Ighalo, who left English Premiership side Watford to move to Changchun Yatai because of the massive financial pickings in the Chinese Super League, is second on the goalscorers' charts with 12 goals.

Bukambu, the 26-year-old Congolese forward, is in third place with 11 goals for Beijing Guoan, after he became the most expensive African player of all time when the Chinese side paid £65 million (about $87 million) to get him away from Spanish giants Villarreal.

Born in France but a member of the Congolese side that will battle the Warriors in back-to-back AFCON qualifiers on October 10 in Kinshasa and three days later in Harare, Bakambu rejected bids from English Premiership sides Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham to move to the Chinese Super League.

Beijing Guoan met his Villarreal release clause of £35 million (about $44,6 million) and then paid the Chinese football association £30 million (about $38,25 million) in taxes to complete the deal for the highly-rated Congolese hitman.

Bakambu then agreed a long-term deal that is earning him

The 26-year-old has agreed a long-term contract worth a reported £307 000 (about $391 000) a week at the Chinese club who take on Mushekwi's Dalian Yifang in Beijing today in the latest round of the country's top-flight league matches.

Bakambu's transfer from Villarreal eclipsed £39 million ($49,71 million) which English Premiership giants Liverpool splashed on Mohamed Salah, the African Footballer of the Year, to get him from Italian club Roma.

The Congolese striker turned himself into box-office attraction when he scored 48 goals in 105 games for Villarreal in 2015 after he arrived on a cheap transfer of £6,5 million (about $8,28 million) from Turkey when he had scored 21 goals.

Given the physical nature of the Congolese players, both in Brazzaville and Kinshasa, some local pundits have been calling for Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa to consider Mushekwi, who is a bustling forward, for the AFCON battles in September and October.

And the forward has been letting his goals do all the talking with his latest hat-trick against Guangzhou R&F another demonstration of his quality with the Zimbabwean striker scoring in the 35th, 56th and 82nd minute in the 3-0 win.

Mushekwi appears to be benefiting from the artistry and vision of Belgian World Cup star Yannick Carrasco who has been in good form since returning from Russia where he helped his country win the bronze medal.

The 24-year-old Carrasco was part of the star-studded Belgian side that eliminated Brazil from the World Cup and ended their contest with a 2-0 win over England in the battle for third place.

He has 30 caps for Belgium and five goals for his country and, in Russia, he played in four matches for the Belgians, spending 239 minutes on the pitch, covering a distance of 28,8km with 12.4km being covered while in possession, had six attempts on target with four on target while two were off target.

Carrasco sprayed 75 passes at the World Cup, with 62 of them being completed passes, 20 were short, 39 where medium range and the rest were long range passes.

He has taken his World Cup form to his Chinese club and he provided two of the assists as Mushekwi grabbed his hat-trick last Friday.

Dalian Yifang remains in relegation danger, after a poor start that forced the management to fire the coach, a development which opened a window for Mushekwi to revive his romance with the team after being left on the sidelines by the previous coach.

The Zimbabwean was even considered for sale but the fans, who still remember the way he starred in helping the team get promoted into the Super League, piled the pressure on their management not to effect the sale.

And when the club changed coaches, with German gaffer Bernd Schuster, who guided Real Madrid to the La Liga title 10 years ago, taking over the hot seat, Mushekwi was thrust back into the team and he has been repaying his coach with goals.

The Zimbabwean has been on a good run and also scored in the 1-0 win over Shanghai SIPG, probably his side's best result this season, 10 days ago with his strike the only goal in a match in which Dalian Yifang upstaged the club that has the likes of Oscar and Hulk of Brazil on their payroll.

Mushekwi is certainly in tough company in the Chinese Super League but he has been showing he can compete against some of the best players in the world with his goals giving Dalian Yifang hope they could find a way to avoid relegation this season.

His combination with Carrasco has been impressive with the Belgian World Cup player also taking to social media to salute the Zimbabwean for his goals for Dalian Yifang in recent days.

The fans have also been coming in their numbers for Dalian Yifang and more than 35 000 watched Mushekwi score his hat-trick last Friday.

Most of them will be hoping that he takes his remarkable goal-scoring form, which also saw him score in the recent 2-3 defeat to Tianjin Teda, to the capital today for his showdown against Bakambu and his teammates.

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