THE ghost of 2011 came back to haunt the Warriors again in Luanda last night as for the second qualifiers in a row, Zimbabwe fell at the final hurdle going down 2-0 and out on aggregate in the Africa Cup of Nations football finals.
Report by Wellington Toni, Sports Editor
In 2011, the Warriors, under Norman Mapeza, needed a win against the Cape Verde Islands in the final qualifier in October, but two goals in the opening 13 minutes put paid to those hopes as Zimbabwe lost 2-1 on a sad afternoon in Praia.
Then Zifa took aim at Method Mwanjali and Nyasha Mushekwi – both players later suspended under the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.
And thus we missed the 2012 edition won by neighbours Zambia.
This time around under Rahman Gumbo, two goals in the opening seven minutes by Manucho again put paid to our hopes of making a third appearance next door and this time who do we blame?
There is no excuse this time around, we failed to get the goal that we needed, we picked attacking form late in the second half, the real drive to fight was missing, save from Noel Kaseke, Esrom Nyandoro, Knowledge Musona and in the last 10 minutes, Kingston Nkhatha and Edward Sadomba.
Yes, the referee was not up to scratch and we all knew that before we departed for Luanda.
Yes, the first half was basically 43 minutes as Kaseke was injured at that time and the referee blew for half-time.
There was too much play-acting from the Angolans — all things we expected.
So, gone is the $10 000 qualification bonus and relief for those who were going to parcel out stands to the Warriors because the last time such a promise was made, it was never kept.
The corporate sponsors will disappear and Mbada Diamonds — Zifa’s all-weather friends — will remain in place.
In fact, they have already made it categorically clear, saying last night that they would continue to support the Warriors “because it is our obligation to do so”.
It was evident from the starting line-up that the battle was not to defend, but to ensure, at whatever cost, reduction to any damage caused by whatever force in order to achieve qualification.
The blow was too early and we failed to recover.
From the team that started on September 9 at Rufaro Stadium, skipper Tapuwa Kapini, Oscar Machapa and Rodwell Chinyengetere were missing yesterday due to injuries.
Kapini was replaced by Highlanders number one Arial Sibanda, Tinashe Nengomasha came in for Machapa, Musona replaced Chinyengetere while Cuthbert Malajila stood in for Takesure Chinyama.
Sadomba and Nkatha were earmarked as impact players in the second half — they tried their best.
Nothing worked for us yesterday. We feel pity for players like Nyandoro, Nengomasha, Kaseke and Kapini, who won’t be around the next time we qualify, if we ever will.
Angola coach Gustavo Ferrin had recalled the duo of Manucho and Djalma Campos to his starting team.
Campos created both goals for Manucho.
The expatriate Uruguayan coach came under fire from the Angolan fans after he left the pair on the bench during the first leg at Rufaro.
Realising he had made a mistake, Ferrin went on to introduce them in the second half and the combination yielded Angola’s solitary goal through Djalma as Zimbabwe had already cruised to a 3-0 half-time lead.
Malajila was not alive on the right wing, hiding behind defenders and as such an out-of-form Nengomasha had to hold on to the ball or play it to the left to Archieford Gutu or Khama Billiat, who were both swamped with defenders.
It was clear to Angola that the Warriors’ right wing was dysfunctional and the Angolans deployed two men there to attack Kaseke.
He had to backtrack all the time faced with two defenders.
He worked his socks off in the match and attempted to assist in forward moves, at the same dropping back to cover his gap.
Unfortunately, nothing worked for Zimbabwe.
And perhaps this preoccupation with Asiagate, this last-minute call-up of players cleared that Gumbo suddenly found in camp without his knowledge, is all to blame.
Maybe, just maybe.
David Coltart, the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, led the way in summing up another bad day for the Warriors: “Along with the rest of Zimbabwe, I am bitterly disappointed with our failure to qualify for Afcon 2013. But it was so close and well done.
“When we clean up Zimbabwean football and rid it of political influence, we will start getting better results on the field – the two are linked.
“Now we need to analyse the Asiagate report out this week and continue the process of cleaning up and de-politicising Zimbabwean football,” he said in a Tweet last night.