KNOWLEDGE MUSONA’S first half goal – the first on his way to a memorable hat trick in the 3-0 demolition of Liberia last Sunday – was another historic statistic for the new Warriors skipper.
That goal, made possible by Danny Phiri sublime pass, took Musona past the legendary Agent “Ajira” Sawu on Zimbabwe’s all-time Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers’ top goal scorers list.
Before last weekend’s master class, Musona was tied with Dream Team star Sawu on nine goals but by the time the 26-year-old completed his hat trick in the 63rd minute, he had also closed in on the greatest Warrior of all time, Peter Ndlovu.
Musona has scored 12 goals in the AFCON qualifiers since making his national team debut in Liberia on September 5, 2010.
Ndlovu, whose influential international career spanned 16 years between 1991 and 2007, tops the AFCON qualifiers chart with 20 goals (including four scored in the combined AFCON/World Cup Qualifiers) while Sawu is now third.
Former Warriors skipper Benjani Mwaruwari scored seven in the AFCON qualifiers before his official retirement in 2010.
The late Adam Ndlovu has six, the same as Vitalis “Digital” Takawira – another prominent actor during Reinhard Fabisch’s Dream Team era.
It has taken Musona seven years to overtake Sawu, whose Warriors journey started in 1992 and ended 12 years later after the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Sawu’s Afcon goals came against Mauritius (1993), Malawi (1994), Lesotho (1995), a brace against Sudan in 1996, one against Senegal in 1999 and a memorable 25-minute hat trick in the 4-0 destruction of Eritrea at the National Sports Stadium on August 15 of that same year.
Musona’s goals in the Afcon qualifiers have come against Liberia (4), Mali (2), Cape Verde (1), Burundi (2), Guinea (1), Swaziland(1) and Malawi (1).
Three of those 12 were scored away in Liberia, Cape Verde Islands and Burundi while four were penalties scored against Mali at Rufaro in 2011, at the Estadio da Varzea in Cape Verde the same year and at the National Sports against Malawi and Swaziland in 2016.
Moses “Bambo” Chunga, who had a spellbinding career in the late 1980s before a knee injury shattered his career in the early 1990s, has five recorded goals in the Afcon qualifiers.
Ndlovu leads the charts for the most goals at the Africa Cup of Nations finals with three scored at the 2004 showpiece in Tunisia.
Esrom Nyandoro (2004), Adam Ndlovu (2004), Joel Lupahla (2004), Benjani Mwaruwari (2006), Cephas Chimedza (2006), Kuda Mahachi (2017), Nyasha Mushekwi (2017), Knowledge Musona (2017) and Tendai Ndoro (2017) have a goal each at the finals.
Musona’s hat trick against Liberia was the third by a Zimbabwean in an Afcon qualifier, after Takawira (against Cameroon) in 1995 and Sawu (against Eritrea) in 1999.
Coincidentally, all the hat tricks have been scored at the National Sports Stadium.
Although Musona’s Afcon qualifiers stock has risen in the past seven years, Sawu remains the deadliest predator in the World Cup qualifiers with a total of eight goals scored between 1992 and 1996.
Ajira as Sawu was affectionately known as, holds the record of scoring six goals in the World Cup Qualifiers in one calendar year in 1993.
The goals included four in a row against Angola, Togo, Angola and Egypt with the other two coming against West African giants Cameroon and Guinea towards the end of that golden 1993 when the Dream Team shook the continent.
The iconic Ndlovu scored seven in the World Cup qualifiers proper, a figure which rises to 11 if the four goals “Nsukuzonke” scored in the combined AFCON/World Cup Qualifiers, are factored in.
Former Dynamos’ dribbling wizard Takawira retired with five goals in the World Cup Qualifiers and the late Adam Ndlovu had four (including one scored in a combined AFCON/World Cup Qualifier).
Former Manchester City striker Mwaruwari had four (including three scored in combined AFCON/World Cup Qualifiers) and Musona has two.
Overall, Ndlovu remains the undisputed Warriors goal king with 38 goals scored over 16 years while Musona now has a total of 20 banged in the last seven years.
However, with age on his side the sky may not turn out to be the limit for the current Warriors skipper.