Muskwe backs injury-hit Zimbabwe squad to impress at AFCON

Town forward starts on the bench against Senegal this afternoon

By Mike Simmonds
Monday, 10th January 2022, 12:42 pm
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 12:44 pm
Luton attacker Admiral Muskwe
Luton attacker Admiral Muskwe

Luton attacker Admiral Muskwe has backed Zimbabwe’s injury-hit to give a good account of themselves in the Africa Cup of Nations.

The 23-year-old forward has been named on the bench by head coach Norman Mapeza for this afternoon’s opening Group B encounter with one of the favourites in Senegal

However, the Warriors have gone into the tournament without a number of their top players, including Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, while captain Tendayi Darikwa from Wigan is out too.

Also missing are Reims midfielder Marshall Munetsi, plus ex-Luton defender Brendan Galloway, who suffered a dislocated kneecap recently, with Kaizer Chiefs winger Khama Billiat recently retiring from international football.

Despite this, Muskwe, who has won three caps in the past, was in optimistic mood, as his country look to improve on their efforts in 2019, finishing bottom of their group with just one point from three matches.

He said: "Injuries are part of football and as much as I know the players who are out, especially Marv, he’d have loved to played in the tournament, that’s just part and parcel of the game.

"We’ve got Jordan Zemura who plays left back at Bournemouth and the squad we’ve got going out there is the strongest squad we can probably field and we’ll do our best.

"The manager’s good too, I’ve spoken to him, he’s given me an idea of how he wants to play and how he wants to go about the tournament.

"We’ll sit down as a team once everyone’s arrived in Cameroon and create a strategy as a team, how we’re going to do things going forward.

"We’ve qualified for the last three tournaments, so this will be our fourth straight Africa Cup of Nations.

"We’re definitely more experienced in that sense, it will be my first one personally, so hopefully we can use experiences from the past to help us do better this time around.”

Opponents Senegal have also been affected for the first game, with Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and captain Kalidou Koulibaly out after testing positive for Covid.

Liverpool striker Sadio Mane leads the line though, as Muskwe, who counts Zimbabwe's striking coach and former Portsmouth and Manchester City attacker Benjani Mwaruwari as one of his heroes, along with Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba, was determined to learn from one of the top forwards in the modern game during the contest, continuing: "Mane’s definitely a player which I look at his game and try to incorporate elements of his game into my game.

"The directness, the movement he makes off the ball which allows him to get into those goalscoring positions, and when you watch it on TV, you don’t always get the whole perspective of what he’s done before he completes the action.

"When I’m on the pitch with him, although the focus will be on the ball and the game, I guess you’ll be directly against him and feel what he’s doing, so I will be aware of it.

"That will be a good experience and definitely one that I’ll learn from."

With Senegal expected to make a real push to lift the trophy, Muskwe expects them to face a serious challenge from at least two other sides in the competition, saying: "I think Algeria, they can’t be counted out, they’ve got such good quality.

"Senegal, I’d probably say those three (Egypt as well) are definitely up there, but I guess football’s football.

"There’ll be a couple of upsets, there’ll be some teams that do better than expected and some of the better nations might not turn up for the tournament.

"You’ve just always got to be prepared and it is 11 v 11 every game, for 90 minutes, so anything can happen.”

Muskwe had been hoped to receive support from his parents at the matches, but conceded they will have to make do watching with real pride on TV, as the international recognition in the family remains strong.

He added: "My parents had planned to come out there, but I think they’ve probably decided it against is, so they’ll probably just watch on TV.

“My sister (Adelaide) represents the international netball team so she was at the last World Cup playing netball.

"We both play for our country which is always nice for my parents and makes them very proud and is a huge honour for us all."