FOR once you have to give credit to the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) for observing the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) day of international friendlies when they invited Botswana to Rufaro Stadium on Wednesday where Zimbabwe beat the Zebras 2-1.
REPORT BY SIMBA RUSHWAYA
It was a departure from the nauseating culture where the Warriors would be one of the few inactive teams globally while others fine-tuned their teams ahead of crucial games.
The fact that Zifa managed to bring foreign-based players against Botswana shows some seriousness on the part of the Cuthbert Dube-led association this time around, never mind their dark past.
History has it that coaches were forced to invite players who would not make the cut when it mattered most because Zifa did not have resources. There was no money to bring foreign-based players then.
It appears that culture is over.
Interim coach Klaus Pagels got off to a dream start when he was given all the resources he wanted.
That is why Pagels has to show his mettle with Zimbabwe’s biggest team. While the win against 2012 Africa Cup of Nations finalists was a morale booster, there seems to be so many grey areas the German coach has to address urgently.
In my view Pagels started on a wrong footing by proclaiming that certain players will never make it into his team. England-based midfielder Bradley Pritchard was mentioned by name in this instance. Players like Carlington Nyadombo and Onismor Bhasera, Kaizer Chiefs’ Willard Katsande and Belgium-based Ovidy Karuru and Vusa Nyoni were omitted despite being in the active group.
Some of these players are in top form, but the new coach has his reasons not to call them. We respect that.
But judging by the Warriors’ performance on Wednesday, there is need for Pagels to soften his hardline stance against certain players ahead of the crunch away 2014 World Cup qualifier match against Egypt next month.
Defensively, the Warriors were caught flatfooted by the BaTswana whenever they raided while the small-framed rearguard which included Hardlife Zvirekwi and Ocean Mushure, will militate against Zimbabwe when they play the Pharaohs.
Agreed, the team played an exciting passing game with methodical build-ups from the back, but there were no menacing killer passes from the middle of the park reminiscent of former Warrior Ronald “Gidiza” Sibanda. Too many square passes were played in the midfield. It was not a surprise that both goals from Zimbabwe were not a result of swift passing.
Khama Billiat’s first goal was a result of scrambling, while Denver Mukamba’s second was just sheer magic by the former Dynamos player, who unsuspectingly unleashed a shot that caught the Botswana goalie Noah Maphosa unaware.
Egyptians possess big players and play fluid football. Pagels needs to rope in big Nyadombo at the back to match the North Africans while the experience of Nyoni and Bhasera might be valuable.
That said and done, one cannot ignore the emergence of Kaizer Chiefs winger Matthew Rusike who was being referred to as “Kedha” from the terraces. Rusike, born to a South African mother and Zimbabwean father, mesmerised the crowd with his pace, piercing attacks and fighting spirit.
Robust in stature, Rusike literally overshadowed seasoned campaigners like Knowledge Musona and Billiat in the Warriors attack on his debut with the senior team. The future is in safe hands.