BY HENRY MHARA
FC PLATINUM have been very poor in their Confederation of African Football (Caf) Champions League campaign, and their coach Norman Mapeza admits they only have themselves to blame for their struggles in Africa so far.
After a commendable show in their first match against Orlando Pirates at a heaving Barbourfields Stadium last month, the platinum miners have forced themselves into a corner after losing two straight games.
A 2-0 defeat against Espérance of Tunisia was followed by another dispiriting 1-0 home loss against Horoya AC, leaving Mapeza’s men bottom of Group B with just one point, and starring at a gloomy possibility of missing qualification to the next stage of the competition.
This afternoon, they face Guinea’s Horoya in the reverse fixture at the Stade du 28 Septembre in a match that gives them an opportunity for redemption. Lose this one, and their slim chances of progressing to the next round will be extinguished.
“It’s still game on,” Mapeza reckons, however.
“We had some setbacks when we lost those two games against Esperance and Horoya, but where we are now it’s about self-belief. Horoya came to Zimbabwe and managed to beat us, we can also do the same. It’s about self-belief and playing with a positive mind,” he said on his arrival in Conakry on Sunday evening ahead of the match.
Mapeza admitted they have failed to live up to their potential, but sees today’s match as a good chance to revive their campaign.
“Against Horoya at home we were not ourselves, I have to be honest. We didn’t play the way we had planned to. It becomes difficult when you do something in training, then when it comes to the match day it doesn’t happen. After we did the video analysis of the game, it was clear. We spoke to the boys and told them we didn’t play the way we had trained. So everybody is aware now and that is important. Let’s apply whatever we have been doing in training, and if it doesn’t work, let’s move to plan B, but the most important thing is for us to play the way we train.
FC Platinum’s main problems so far have been their lack of firepower upfront. They are the only team in the group yet to score a goal after 270 minutes of playing.
“We will not go in search of goals only, we need to win. We know the problems that people are talking about us not scoring goals, but it’s not about the strikers only. We are looking at all the departments on the pitch, for example, if the goalkeeper is not conceding it means the defence is OK. If the defence is looking solid it means they are getting the cover they need from the midfielders; so when we go forward, we have to be creative starting from midfield going forward. We need to have that creativity, and I have been talking about that because if there is no creativity it is difficult to get goals. I just hope tomorrow (today) we will play our normal game and get a result,” Mapeza said.
Orlando Pirates lead Group B log standings with five points, the same number as defending champions Espérance, with three rounds of matches remaining. These two also meet this afternoon in Tunis.
With two teams from this group progressing to the quarterfinals of the competition, Horoya with four points, also see this clash against FC Platinum as a good opportunity to gain some more valuable points and enhance their chances.
Unlike Horoya, who arrived in Harare eight days before their game against FC Platinum last month, Mapeza’s men only arrived in the Guinea capital on Sunday evening following a long trip that took them via Ethiopia and Ivory Coast.
“We had a long journey, but I just hope the guys will be feeling OK tomorrow (today).”
They were expected to have a loosening session yesterday afternoon ahead of a match that will test whether or not they are worth of being in the competition.