Warriors last minute curse


The Warriors — just like their mourning South African counterparts — should know by now that they can only qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals by simply winning their games.

And not the complex issue of mathematics, leaving things to fate or depending on results from other matches.

This basically meant the Warriors had to beat Cape Verde to finish on 11 points — at all costs — considering the other match in Group A between Mali and Liberia in Monrovia ended in a 2-2 draw. This would have given Mali 10 points and a route out of the finals.

In any case, Zimbabwe have always made life difficult for themselves since 1992 — fluffing golden chances at the crucial moment — and failing to make their mark on the continental stage.

It was on that unforgettable July 14 1991, when John Sibanda gave away that last minute goal against Congo — the same way Method Mwanjali gave away the two goals against the Cape Verde on Saturday — where these last minute heartbreaks started. The Congo match ended 2-2.

Zimbabwe were in second place with three points then and two more points would have pushed them to five, one behind Congo who had six before their last away match to Malawi, which also ended 2-2.

Perhaps, just perhaps, had the Warriors picked up two points from that home match and they finished off Malawi away, Zimbabwe could have made their debut in the 1992 edition.

It is the same case with this campaign when the Warriors chose to draw 0-0 with Cape Verde at home when they had a made a good start with a 1-1 away draw to Liberia. The two points lost in that match have cost a place among Africa’s best because we needed not to go to Cape Verde on Saturday with the pressure of seeking a win.

We were close again for the 1994 finals, when, leading Zambia 1-0, that great man called Kalusha Bwalya, headed in a seemingly harmless-looking ball that beat Bruce Grobbelaar and in that flash we were out with a draw.

Zimbabwe had done well in the race, led by the mercurial Peter Ndlovu, thumping South Africa 4-1 on August 16 1992 before beating Mauritius 1-0 away. The next match was a 0-0 draw away to Zambia before they drew 1-1 against South Africa in Johannesburg. The next match was a 2-0 home win over Malawi to leave the Chipolopolo tie a possible decider.

Going into the final match, Zimbabwe was on eight points with Zambia on nine. So Zimbabwe needed just a win on July 25 1993 against a rebuilding Zambia, but that was not to be.

Then in 2004 when we finally made our debut, we did on the strength of being the best runners-up and after years of agony. We did not need to look at how we did it, but that finally, Sunday Chidzambwa had delivered what every other coach, local or foreign, had failed to do.

Zimbabwe finished second to Mali with 13 points on an inferior goal difference as the West Africans had the same number of points. We also managed to collect four points from Mali after beating them 1-0 at home and drawing 0-0 away. We even won the last home game 2-0 against Eritrea, one thing that Mapeza failed to do against the Cape Verde last year.

You need just to win home games and avoid a loss away! The 2006 finals were not a tough affair as the qualifiers were combined with the World Cup qualifiers and three teams had to go through. The simply rule was that the top team would go to Germany and will be joined by the two runners- up for Afcon.

Zimbabwe finished third on 15 points, six behind Nigeria and Angola, who claimed the sole ticket to the World Cup.

From that race, Zimbabwe picked up 12 points from three home wins against Angola (2-0), Gabon (1-0) and Rwanda (3-1). We drew 1-1 against Algeria at home and were hammered 3-0 by Nigeria — a game that cost Rahman Gumbo his job before Charles Mhlauri took over.

From the away games, Zimbabwe picked up five points, beating Rwanda 2-0 and drawing twice against Gabon and Algeria before losses to Nigeria and Angola. You just need to decide your own destiny. Period!