WARRIORS’ caretaker coach, Rahman Gumbo, has poured cold water on reports that talismanic striker, Knowledge Musona, will not be available for selection ahead of the crunch final round of 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Angola in September.
The draw for the final round of qualifiers was held in Johannesburg last Thursday night and Zimbabwe will battle Angola over two legs for the right to qualify for a third appearance at the Nations Cup finals.
Nonetheless news that Musona, the Warriors’ chief striker, is quitting international football in the wake of the match-fixing row that erupted in the countdown to the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against Burundi in Harare last month, threatened to derail Zimbabwe’s hopes of assembling a formidable outfit.
The TSG Hoffenheim striker is understood to have written to Zifa chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, through his legal representatives, that he was taking a break from international football and would not be available for selection for the Warriors.
Musona said he would only reconsider playing for the Warriors again if Zifa issue a public apology, confirming that they erred in painting him with a match-fixing brush, and forward such communication to world football governing body, Fifa.
Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube, believes the Warriors can march on without their talismanic forward, Knowledge Musona, and still qualify for the 2013 Nations Cup finals in South Africa next year
However, in an interview this week, the former FC Platinum mentor, Gumbo said what he was reading in the Press was a world apart from what the player was telling him.
“I just do not understand where this is coming from. I am only getting it from the Press. I am in touch with the player (Musona) and what he is telling me is different from what I am reading in the Press.
“Maybe he will decide to divulge it to me later, but for now he is part of my plans.
“I am not even worried about his so-called possible absence.
“All I am focusing on is how best we can prepare for the matches against Angola. We need to go past that hurdle and book a berth at the finals,” said Gumbo.
The multiple championship winning gaffer, said the final round of qualifiers against Angola was quite a fair draw for the national team.
“I think this is quite a fair draw for us. We have played the Angolans on numerous occasions and I think all we need to do is to have adequate preparations ahead of the two matches.
“It would have been worse if we got North or West African opponents. We all know how much we have always struggled against North or West Africans.
“I do not mean to say Angola are pushovers, but I think we can match their standards or even surpass them,” he said.
Musona made his debut for the Warriors in a 2010 World Cup finals preparatory match against Bafana Bafana at the Moses Mabhidha Stadium in Durban, which the South Africans won 3-0.
His first competitive tie was the 2012 Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia in Monrovia and Musona fired the Warriors into the lead, but the home side rallied in the second half to get the equaliser in a game that ended 1-1.
He fired blanks in the goalless home tie against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium, amid chaos in their camp, during the countdown to the match, with the confusion related to who would be in charge of the team spilling onto the eve of the game.
An injured Musona missed Zimbabwe’s away tie against Mali in Bamako, which the Warriors lost 0-1, but returned to score a brace at Rufaro, amid bedlam in the stands as he converted a last-gasp penalty, to beat the same opponents 2-1.
Injury then ruled him out of the home tie against Liberia, which the Warriors comfortably won 3-0, and returned to play in Cape Verde, scoring the only goal as Zimbabwe lost 1-2 to crash out of the battle for a place at the 2012 Nations Cup finals.
Musona failed to score in the two opening 2014 World Cup matches against Guinea and Mozambique and, predictably, the Warriors fired blanks but he found his scoring touch, just at the right time, to score the golden goal against Burundi.
He has scored all the three goals that the Warriors have registered in their last five World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers.
Musona now has six goals in eight World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers for his country and nine goals, in 12 international matches, including the four friendlies he has played. By Sbue Sibanda ,