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Zimbabwe give COSAFA-winning coach new task

AFP , Thursday 13 Jul 2017
Zimbabwe Football team

Zimbabwe have rewarded COSAFA Cup-winning coach Sunday Chidzambwa by retaining him for the 2018 African Nations Championship qualifying campaign, which begins Sunday away to Namibia.

The former national team captain and centre-back was due to step aside after Zimbabwe overcame Zambia 3-1 last Sunday to win the southern Africa championship a record fifth time.

But national football association boss Philip Chiyangwa has decided to keep Chidzambwa in charge rather than deploy original choice Rahman Gumbo.

Chidzambwa and Gumbo coach top-flight clubs in Zimbabwe and work with national teams on a part-time basis.

"A strong bond has developed between the coaches and the players and it would be foolish to tamper with it," Chiyangwa said ahead of the second round first leg qualifier.

"Sunday, his fellow coaches and the players made the nation proud by winning the COSAFA Cup a record fifth time.

"The national football association has decided that Sunday will remain in charge to ensure that we qualify for the 2018 African Nations Championship in Kenya.

"There is a lot of potential among the coaches and the players and we saw no reason to disturb this momentum."

Chidzambwa has had to alter the COSAFA Cup-winning squad, though, as the Nations Championship is restricted to footballers playing in their country of birth.

Knox Mutizwa, voted the best player at the COSAFA Cup, and six-goal leading scorer Ovidy Karuru are ineligible as they play for South African clubs.

However, final scorers Talent Chawapiwa and Ocean Mushure play in Zimbabwe and are part of the 18-man squad.

Zimbabwe are the only country to have taken part in the previous four Nations Championship qualifying competitions who boast an unbeaten record, winning 11 games and drawing five.

Goal-shy Namibia had a mixed COSAFA Cup campaign, defeating Swaziland, drawing with Lesotho and losing to South Africa.

They have been hampered by a power struggle between national association and league officials that has limited top-flight football this year to a cup competition.

Either 14 or 15 first legs will be played between Friday and Sunday in qualifying staged regionally to curb travel time and costs.

If a FIFA ban imposed last weekend on Sudan for government interference is not lifted by Saturday, a fixture in Burundi will be cancelled and the east Africans disqualified.

Swaziland, who fared poorly at the COSAFA Cup under Dutch coach Pieter de Jongh, have called up nine Mbabane Swallows players who were unavailable due to a CAF club commitment.

These included sharpshooter Sabelo Ndzinisa, the second highest scorer in the 2017 CAF Confederation Cup with six goals, and veteran midfielder Tony Tsabedze.

They host Zambia, who could not use Zanaco and Zesco United stars in the COSAFA Cup because of African fixtures.

Coach Wedson Nyirenda has picked 11 players from the two clubs while retaining goalkeeper Allan Chibwe, whose blunder gifted Zimbabwe the first goal of the COSAFA final.

Botswana, who named former army officer David Bright coach this week, seek revenge for a COSAFA defeat by South Africa when they clash in Francistown.

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