WARRIORS coach Baltermar Brito says he will throw his best players into the fray as Zimbabwe hunt for victory against Nigeria in a 2026 World Cup qualifying tie at Huye Stadium this afternoon.
The match kicks off at 3pm.
Zimbabwe are the home team and have been in the mountainous Central African country longer than their foes, after having played out a goalless draw against Rwanda in the opening game at the same venue on Wednesday.
With Nigeria arriving less than 48 hours ago — on the back of their 1-1 home draw against Lesotho in their own opener on Thursday — the Warriors have every reason to be optimistic going into the match against a team that has largely historically dominated them.
Brito has all but one of his players available, as the country braces for one of the biggest games of the qualifiers they will play in the six-team Group C.
Admiral Muskwe was injured during the Rwanda match.
The Highlanders gaffer did not have the privilege to pick his best players available in the squad in the draw against Rwanda.
Some of the players delayed joining camp due to the logistics involved, especially given that some international leagues were still running by Sunday last week, making planning a bit difficult.
As a result, some players, like Udinese star Jordan Zemura and Sheriff Tiraspol defender Munashe Garan’anga, did not have time to train with the rest of the team.
The duo arrived in Butare just two hours before the match.
Others like forward Tino Kadewere only had a few hours of practice with their peers.
Brito had no option but to bench those who did not have sufficient time to get his philosophy, and he threw a squad that had four locally based players, including Andrew Mbeba.
Mbeba had an afternoon to forget against Rwanda.
However, the gaffer has already revealed he will ring the changes in the team that will play the Super Eagles.
“We didn’t have much time to prepare for the match against Rwanda, and, even without much time, we still managed to do well,” said Brito.
“We feel this is the beginning of a new era for Zimbabwean football. We will make changes, bringing a team with those stars to face Nigeria.
“Nigeria is a big team, and we know what they are capable of doing as a team.
“They have a lot of talented players in their team and we should make sure they don’t get to shine against us.
“We need to be compact, play as a unit and see what happens. But we remain confident that we can get a good result.
“At the end of the day, a result is what we need to get.
“We started with a draw and we are now going all out in search of that win.
“I am happy we had so many fans in the stands when we played Rwanda on Wednesday, and we are appealing for the same support on Sunday (today) against Nigeria.
“I know it’s difficult playing a home match away, but we need to adjust our mindset as a team and play well to get the result we need.”
Kadewere, who replaced Prince Dube in the match against Rwanda, said the Warriors should be ready to suffer but ultimately get the reward against Nigeria.
“The last time we played against Nigeria, the match ended 1-1, and we take that as a positive,” he said.
“Of course, they are counted as one of the biggest teams in Africa, but we don’t want to put that into our minds.
“We have to go into the pitch telling ourselves that it’s a cup final; we need to do everything to get this victory for ourselves and the nation.
“We should do our best.”
The Lyon forward said Zimbabwe should concentrate on taming the star players who will play for Nigeria today.
“We all know Nigeria; they have a very good squad.
“Of course, they have a few players missing, like Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze, but they still have a very good squad,” Kadewere added.
“We don’t need to focus on those missing; we have to focus on those who are there.
“We should try to put our minds in the game and take it as a final.
“Zimbabwe have the quality . . .
“We should try and make sure that we don’t sit back; we have to push forward to get the victory.
“It’s not going to be easy, but we need to throw more than 100 percent into this game.”
The Warriors are largely buoyed by the presence of figures like Peter Ndlovu and Desmond Maringwa, who are here as part of the ZIFA Normalisation Committee’s efforts to involve legends of the game with the national teams.
The former star players are happy with the mood in the camp ahead of the match against Nigeria.