Zimbabwe’s Warriors have been dealt a huge blow with star midfielder and captain Ovidy Karuru being ruled out of the COSAFA Cup after damaging his ankle ligaments.
The inspirational playmaker was at the receiving end of a horror tackle in a quarter-final battle against Botswana on Sunday. Tests yesterday revealed he needed surgery and was now out of the tournament.
“It’s sad to lose him and I thought he had really picked up his game in the second half when he got injured,’’ said coach Sunday Chidzambwa.
“I am happy though with how Richard (Hachiro) equipped himself when he came on. He helped us to keep the ball and he even had one or two chances to take a crack at goal, but opted to pass on the responsibility.
“He is a very good player who only now needs to grow in confidence.
“We are also happy that Tafadzwa Kutinyu has arrived and he can also play in that role well.’’
Karuru was hoping to become the first captain in the COSAFA Cup history to lift the silverware twice in succession.
Karuru was conspicuous by absence from the Warriors training yesterday as his teammates underwent a regeneration exercise conducted by fitness trainer Thompson Matenda and under the watchful eyes of Chidzambwa and his assistants — Lloyd Mutasa, Rahman Gumbo and Brenna Msiska.
“I am very happy with the way we defended, Alec (Mudimu) is quite good and Kelvin (Moyo) is also okay, but needs to be more aggressive as a defender,’’ said Chidzambwa.
“I am quite pleased with the steadiness shown by the centre backs.
“Jameson (Mukombwe) we will work on him and it is not a big issue, but I must say Divine Lunga is a very good left back.’’
With Zambia setting up a semi-final clash against COSAFA Cup 2018 surprise packages Madagascar, there is now a general feeling among fans that they are in for a repeat of last year’s final at the Royal Bafokeng Sport Palace in Rustenburg, between the Warriors and Chipopololo.
But Chidzambwa insists on taking it on a game by game basis and wants to clear the Lesotho hurdle first.
“Lesotho gave us a torrid time last year and I think we also need to guard against complacency in order to make it easy for ourselves.
“They also beat us in a friendly in November last year,’’ said Chidzambwa.
The 61-year-old coach remembers how Likuena fought back from 3-0 down to give his Warriors a frenetic finish as Zimbabwe eventually eked a 4-3 semi-final triumph at Moruleng stadium on July 5.
Lesotho are the only side that did not have to go through the penalties after dispatching Swaziland 1-0 in the first of the quarter-final matches on Saturday.
With Karuru ruled out, vice captain George Chigova, hero on the quarter-final battle against Botswana, will lead the team.
“It was tough to play the first game and like I have said before it also has its advantages to start from the group games because you will have the momentum and that is what Botswana had.
“We are sorry about our leader Ovidy, we will miss him, but we need to win.
“I think now that we have the first game out of the way people are more settled and ready to go all the way to the final,’’ Chigova said.
Chigova said he realised that he needed to take responsibility when the Warriors failed to break the Zebras in regulation time.
“I am just coming from injury and I missed my club’s last three games of the season, but I just told myself that I would need to try and do it for my country and that if we are to lose it would be out of bad luck.
“So, personally, I am happy with my performance and with the performance of the team and playing in Polokwane is another inspiration for me.
“Hopefully on Wednesday we can create as many chances as we did against Botswana and make use of them this time around.
“Lesotho are fighters and we should not allow them space, but instead keep them under immense pressure,’’ Chigova said.