France-based attacker Tinotenda Kadewere’s return to full fitness after four months out with a knee complaint should prove a great lift for Zimbabwe as they close in on a ticket to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon next year.
The Warriors visit Liberia on Sunday needing victory to seal a second consecutive AFCON qualification.
A draw could even see them through if Congo-Brazzaville lose to the Democratic Republic of Congo in the other Group G encounter.
True enough, Kadewere cannot realistically be expected to instantly hit top form, having managed just eight minutes of competitive football since recovering from his latest injury setback a couple of weeks ago.
However, the 22-year-old’s mere presence in Monrovia, fit and ready to bond with the rest of the squad, is certainly one giant step towards the big dream of building a fluid forward line for Zimbabwe, who have long yearned for a centre-forward in Kadewere’s mould.
“I really like Kadewere’s style, he is a different kind of striker, and if he can regain the form he showed at the COSAFA tournament, then Zimbabwe can have one of the most dangerous strike forces on the continent,” Black Rhinos legend Maronga Nyangela told KweséESPN.
“As a central striker, Kadewere has everything, the instinct, the skill, everything,” Nyangela continued. “You can imagine the kind of effect his combination with [Khama] Billiat and [Knowledge] Musona will have.”
Not exactly a typical fox in the box, Kadewere is blessed with the technique, the energy and the intelligence to roam the pitch and link-up play without ever neglecting his primary responsibilities of turning up in the right positions in the box, and at the right moments.
It is unlikely that Zimbabwe will profit from these qualities in Monrovia, given that Kadewere is still battling to regain his sharpness.
The former Harare City man was in Kalisto Pasuwa’s squad for the 2017 AFCON finals, but he returned home without ever kicking a ball, having struggled to make an impression in the pre-tournament friendlies.
The January 2017 finals may actually have come a little too early for Kadewere, who had just spend his first full season in Sweden trying to get to grips with the European environment, having joined Djurgaderns in August of 2015.
He then returned to his base in Sweden hoping to pick up the pieces only to have his progress derailed by a hamstring injury sustained in mid-year, which laid him low for a good three months.
Having managed just five goals in 12 starts in his first two full seasons in the Swedish top flight, Kadewere started 2018 inspired to resuscitate his career, and he did exactly that, scoring eight goals in 12 matches to earn a move to Le Havre even as he nursed ruptured knee ligaments.
Now as he emerges from his injury woes to resume his rise to the top, Zimbabwe can only marvel at the timing, with a good seven months before the 2018 AFCON finals.
There is plenty of time for Kadewere to regain top form and stake his claim for a starting birth in Chidzambwa’s team.
It will not be easy, with Nyasha Mushekwi in the form of his life in the Chinese top flight, while diaspora talent Macauley Bonne is also showing great promise with National League side Leyton Orient.
However, Kadewere, when in peak form, provides that extra edge which has the potential to make the Warriors forward line a lot more potent.
Often, some promising attacks can come to naught due a heavy first touch, a clumsy attempt at dribbling, an over-hit pass, or even a totally misdirected one.
Warriors attackers Musona, Billiat, Chawapiwa, and even Terrence Dzvukamanja, are all technically gifted enough to avoid such blunders for the most part, and the presence of Kadewere up-top should mean more fluidity in the final third.
However, the immediate challenge for Kadewere is to prove that he has the quality to quickly regain form and establish himself as a regular at Le Havre. Success with Zimbabwe should follow.