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Brito defends Warriors selection

by Staff reporter
02 Nov 2023 at 05:36hrs | Views
The announcement of the provisional Warriors squad to commence Zimbabwe's 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign has stirred significant discontent within the local football community. However, national coach Baltemar Brito has defended his selection criteria, emphasizing the importance of player quality and their ability to face two demanding challenges within a short timeframe.

Zimbabwe is making its return to competitive international football after an 18-month FIFA suspension, engaging in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers over the next 17 days. The Warriors, competing in Group C, will launch their World Cup bid with an away clash against Rwanda on November 15, followed by hosting Nigeria's Super Eagles in Rwanda four days later.

ZIFA unveiled the squad on social media, generating spirited debates across the country. Brito's decision to include several England-based newcomers, known locally as the British Brigade, has come under scrutiny. These players, represented by their agents under the banner of the Zimbabwe Foreign Legion, lack experience for such high-stake World Cup qualifiers.

Despite the criticisms, Brito defended his selections, asserting that they were made in the best interests of Zimbabwean football, without considering the players' status. Notably, the squad excludes experienced players like Douglas Mapfumo, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Knox Mutizwa, Devine Lunga, and Dynamos' midfielder Donald Mudadi.

The absence of any players from Premier Soccer League leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars is also conspicuous, with Pfumbidzai and Mutizwa, who attended a recent Warriors camp, being omitted from the squad despite their impressive form.

Brito explained that some players who impressed during a camp in Harare were included, and any omissions were based on technical decisions considering player competition in the same positions and the minutes they've played.

The squad features Liverpool midfielder Isaac Mabaya, Leicester City striker Tawanda Maswanhise, and Cardiff City defender Andy Rinomhota, all playing for the development sides of their clubs. Brito indicated that the British Brigade would receive no special treatment and expressed hope that they would join the team.

Zimbabwe had recently played a friendly against Botswana and organized a training camp during October's FIFA international break. Local players who performed well in the Botswana match were included, alongside foreign-based players mainly from South Africa.

The squad balances experience and youth, reflecting the demanding nature of facing Rwanda and Nigeria with only two days of training between matches. The criteria were based on quality and the ability to confront these challenges in a limited time frame, Brito noted. The Warriors are set to assemble on November 13, with plans for some European-based players to fly directly to Rwanda. The final selection will aim to field the best eleven while considering factors like player freshness and match schedule.

Warriors' provisional squad

Goalkeepers: Donovan Bernard (Chicken Inn), Washington Arubi (SuperSport United), Martin Mapisa (FC Malaga City), Marley Tavaziva (Brentford)

Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Apollon Limassol), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Peter Muduhwa (Highlanders), Frank Makarati (Dynamos), Teenage Hadebe (Houston Dynamo), Munashe Garan'anga (Sheriff Tiraspol), Brendan Galloway (Plymouth Argyle), Jordan Zemura (Udinese), Tivonge Rushesha (Reading)

Midfielders: Brian Banda (FC Platinum), Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims), Andy Rinomhota (Cardiff City), Marvelous Nakamba (Luton Town), Gerald Takwara (Ohod), Isaac Mabaya (Liverpool), Tanaka Shandirwa (Dynamos)

Forwards: Obriel Chirinda (Bulawayo Chiefs), Prince Dube (Azam), Tinotenda Kadewere (Lyon), Admiral Muskwe (Exeter City), Walter Musona (FC Platinum), Terrence Dzvukamanja (SuperSport United), Leon Chiwome (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Tawanda Maswanhise (Leicester City)

Source - The Herald
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