The Warriors are on a mission to repair their bruised and battered ego when they take on Uganda in their final Group D match in the African Nations Championships (Chan) today, in a match that, however, bears no consequence to their cause in the football tournament.
KEVIN MAPASURE IN RUBAVU, RWANDA
Having lost their first two matches against Zambia and Mali, the Zimbabwe national team has already been eliminated from the tournament, but they still have a point to prove, having encountered lots of condemnation from their demanding fans.
For coach Kalisto Pasuwa, this is a match that he needs to win to provide proof that he is the right man to lead the Warriors, with doubts having been cast over his capabilities despite an impressive record prior to this tournament.
A result today will be of immense importance despite the fact that his team will be packing their bags to return home.
Pasuwa suffered a blow yesterday after the medical team informed him that three players — full-back Blessing Moyo, defender Elisha Muroiwa and linkman Marshal Mudehwe — would not be able to partake in this match.
Mudehwe was outstanding in the match against Mali, playing on the right side of the midfield and giving opponents lots of problems with his pace and dribbling skills.
He was, however, let down by poor finishing and also struggled with the final pass.
Pasuwa said the FC Platinum attacker would be missed in today’s match, but added that his absence had created an opportunity for someone else to prove their worth.
“Marshal is one of those players that did well in the Mali game and we had hoped he would play in the Uganda match,” Pasuwa said.
“He has got a bright future ahead of him. He is aggressive and he takes on defenders. It’s sad he misses this match. But someone else will come in and I am sure whoever comes in, will be able to equally do the job. The Uganda game is a must-win encounter for us. We need to show everyone that we are still a good side despite the early exit.”
He revealed that Caps United midfielder Joel Ngodzo, Harare City attacker Raphael Manuvire and Highlanders full-back Bruce Kangwa would all start today’s game.
“Definitely, those three will start. They didn’t play in the first two matches and I feel they deserve their chance. We will see whether there is need for other changes, but we want to come up with a win,” he said.
Pasuwa expects another tough match against Uganda, whom he described as a physical side.
“Just like Mali, they are also very quick on the break. We have to neutralise them by imposing our own game like we did in the last match. But we need to improve the final pass and conversion. Goals have been elusive in this tournament so far for us and we have been working hard in the last two days. ,Hopefully we can correct our mistakes. The boys need composure if they are to seize their opportunities,” the Warriors gaffer said.
He added that the match could be as tight as the one between the two teams in the 2014 tournament, where it finished in a nil-all draw.
While the Warriors would be set out in an attacking mode, they will also need to guard against making mistakes at the back.
In the two defeats, Zimbabwe failed to deal with set pieces, conceding in almost similar fashion in both matches.
Zimbabwe will look to the experience of captain Hardlife Zvirekwi as well as Ngodzo and striker Roderick Mutuma, who are some of the senior players in the squad.
Edmore Chirambadare is likely to retain his place in the attack and he will be looking for an improved performance, having struggled to take his chances so far.
A lot has been expected from Ronald Chitiyo, but so far, he has not delivered.
Like other attackers in the team, he too, has played well, but somehow, the goals have not come his way.
FC Platinum midfielder Nqobizitha Masuku, who was also impressive in the match against Mali, will be looking to make his case for future national team recognition stronger.
Uganda, who still have a mathematical chance of progressing to the next stage, will be under pressure to take all the three points.
Zambia, who play Mali in Kigali, lead the pack with six points after notching up two 1-0 wins and Uganda have a single point.
Mali have taken four points so far and a win for Zambia could help Uganda’s cause if the latter can win the match against Zimbabwe.
The Warriors will be hoping to take advantage of Uganda’s desperation, which is likely to force them to throw everything into attack and probably leave spaces at the back.