‘The nearly men’

EACH step forward they make is followed by another step back ward.

BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA

Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga (centre) and his assistants Lloyd Mutasa (left) and Rahman Gumbo failed to come up with a strategy to kill the game and thrust Zimbabwe into the Afcon 2019 finals against Liberia on Sunday

Just when everyone thinks they have it in the bag, it stubbornly eludes them.

It has been the same sad story for the Warriors since independence.

They just failed to soak up the pressure on the big moment — a propensity which has earned them the unwanted label of “The nearly men of African
football”.

The Warriors have gained notoriety for bringing down its passionate supporters’ hope from the top to the floor.

Zimbabwe still has sad memories of 1991, when a horrendous howler by goalkeeper John Sibanda at home presented Congo with a neatly wrapped gift to earn a share of the spoils and a ticket to the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals.

Two years later, when they needed a win against Zambia at the National Sports Stadium to make it to the biennial soccer showcase in Tunisia, the Warriors allowed Kalusha Bwalya a free header to level the scores after the Warriors had raced into the lead through Henry Mackop.

And that dream was buried.

After having stunned spectators of the African game, when they defied odds staked against them to overcome highly-rated Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) 2-1 in their own backyard last month, the Warriors needed a victory of any margin in the return leg at home to qualify with two games to spare.

Sunday Chidzambga’s men, however, couldn’t just absorb the pressure from their home fans after they were held to a 1-1 draw.

Another opportunity was blown.

The Warriors were now pinning their hopes in the next match against Liberia in Monrovia, where they needed at least a draw to sew up the campaign.

That seemed an easier task given that this is the same team they had defeated 3-0 in Harare in the opening match of the campaign, with skipper Knowledge Musona scoring a memorable hat-trick.

However, the ghost that has haunted them in big moments like these returned as they suffered a dispiriting 1-0 defeat courtesy of a strike by skipper William Jebor 18 minutes from full time, leaving them with all to do in the decisive qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville at home next year.

The Warriors were, however, the masters of their own downfall in Liberia, as they had dominated for long periods in which they carved out good opportunities only to be let down by poor finishing, with Tino Kadewere the chief culprit.

The French-based forward spurned two gilt-edged chances which could have seen the Warriors kill off the game, while Ovidy Karuru struggled to impose himself on the match.

Despite the stumble, the Warriors maintained their lead in Group G with eight points, while Liberia are now second with seven and DRC third with six.
Congo-Brazzaville are at the bottom of the table with five points.

The development has thrown the race for the ticket wide open again.

The Warriors now need to win against Congo-Brazzaville in Harare in March next year to qualify as group winners, while a draw will suffice for them to take up the second slot.

In the worst case scenario, the Warriors can qualify even if they lose to Congo-Brazzaville provided the other encounter between DRC and Liberia ends in a stalemate.

Two top teams from each group qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals to be held in Camreroon.

8 Comments

  1. Iro exercise book racho riri kushandiswa for strategic notes, mahwani chaiwo. Ini reporter why not put the log standings to give your readers more information.

  2. Can Sunday Chidzambwa take rasta vaye vanonzi Thabani Kamusoko,,He is a very good player bcoz that home game mmm its going to be tough again nezvandakaona paLiberia

  3. The players who are there play according to their individual brilliance and not according to the coaches’ tactics. All the three coaches have no inspirational track records in the premier league. They both failed dismally. So what new winning strategy can they formulate and make the team win. Yes they can win their last game, but they will be booted out in the group stages of the Afcon. Zifa needs to look for another foreign coach, with real credentials, to prop out the team.

  4. KATSANDE RETIRED HE MUST GO BACK WHERE HE WAS .WE NEED FRESH BLOOD TO IMPROVE OUR FOOTBALLING ETHICS

  5. pandakaona Katsande aiswa muSquad yedu ndakabva ndaziva kuti hapana chaizobuda ….handizive kuti vakamutorerei taiva nevechidiki vedu vaitamba zvakanaka but to my surprise the coach made changes….ndozvakauraya team izvozvo….come the last game if the coach really wants us to qualify for afcon anofanira kusiya vana Katsande vaye havachina bhora…….Hatichade vana katsande muSquad inga akaRetire wani so ngaagare ikoko….pamwe coach vakapihwa yemuhomwe ndosaka pakaitwa machanges …

    1. the overall performanc zikeeper billiat musona hadebe and this guy aitamba nine aikuta maguilt edge chances was bad

  6. I think Sibanda was OK he actually saved us from humiliation. Weakness ya Sunday from Tunisia Days still in him. Anobata muromo kanazvaoma and only does sustitutes in the last minutes even team iripatait. Tino had a bad day and i think Knox or Evans could have burried those chances. He (Sunday) resigned from ZPC saying his tactics and new generation football are no longer in tangent. And ZIFA goes for that man to lead the country aAAAAAAahhhh Fidza auraya bhora. Bring Mapeza back. Mangwiro arinani at 60 -70 he substitutes.

  7. Sunday zvaramba. The Asiagate memories are still lingering in our minds. Zifa Dr Phillip please resign together with Mhofu. Chabuda hapana

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