BY HENRY MHARA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
KNOWLEDGE Musona is wearing a brave face despite a barrage of criticism against him following his shocking misses in Zimbabwe’s 1-1 draw against Uganda in a Group A Africa Cup of Nations match at the Cairo International Stadium in Egypt on Wednesday night, which cost the team a much-needed win.
The consequences of those uncharacteristic misses could see the Warriors getting eliminated from the competition depending on results in the final Group A matches on Sunday.
Khama Billiat equalised for the Warriors towards the halftime break to cancel Uganda’s early lead, but the biggest talking points from the match were the number of chances that the
Sunday Chidzambga-coached men failed to put away.
Statistics from the match show that Zimbabwe had 11 shots at goal, of which eight were on target, but only one found its way past the imposing Ugandan goalkeeper Denis Onyango.
The three that were off target were shots by Musona, and they were the best chances that the team created.
Musona ballooned the first chance he got early in the first half, before hitting the underside of the cross bar from six meters in the second half, with the goal gapping.
He was then sent through on goal in optional time, but curled his effort wide as the Warriors settled for a draw, a result that complicated their chances of progressing to the next
Billiat also missed a good chance, while Evans Rusike decided to wheel away in celebration before his shot had completely crossed the line as Onyango recovered to scoop the ball to
Musona yesterday admitted he was not the fans’ favourite at this moment, but said he was humbly taking the criticism and looking ahead to the next match.
“For some people, it’s easy to talk on social media, (but) when you are in there, it’s different. I will take it (criticism) because it’s my responsibility to score goals,” Musona told NewsDay Sport.
“I have scored some goals for the team before and the same people were happy, so in these bad moments I expect them to be sad. It’s part of football, as a player you must not take the
criticism to heart, but as part of the learning process and improve the next time.
“For me, it’s OK, I will take the blame for the team because I’m the captain and I know what I’m expected to do. But I’m sure any player can miss a chance in a game, so I’m not worried
about it a lot. What we will do is focus on the next match and try to correct the mistakes we made.”
The Warriors failed to get the desired result, but the draw was not the worst result because if they can beat the Democratic Republic of Congo on Sunday, they will get four points and
qualify to the next round as one of the two top teams in the group or as one of the four best runners-up.
Zimbabwe can still finish above Uganda if they can beat the DRC, and the Cranes, already on four points, lose to already qualified Egypt.
“We will stay focussed and try to win the next match and go to the next round. That game is a do-or-die, we can’t afford any more mistakes. We will go for three points and with four points, they will be enough to take us to the next round,” the Warriors captain said.
In the absence of the injured Nyasha Mushekwi, Musona was thrust to lead the line ahead of Tino Kadewere, Knox Mutizwa and Rusike, with Ovidy Karuru playing behind him, while the speedy
Billiat and Talent Chawapihwa provided width.
“The coaches decided that we need speed in front and we needed attack because we needed a win. Unfortunately, we had a setback when we conceded first. The plan was to score first and
then control the game, but we cannot control these things in football,” Musona said.
“We now just have to fight until the end. It was a good performance, we showed character and believed in ourselves and managed to equalise before half-time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t score the second.”
The general play of the Warriors in the two matches has been very encouraging.
They held their own against the hosts, Egypt, and were unlucky not to win against Uganda so much that the Uganda coach admitted after the match that he doesn’t know how his team had
escaped with the point.
“We didn’t get the win, but we will take some positives from the match and the good thing is that we never gave up,” Musona said.
The DRC will also be looking for revenge against a team that almost denied them participation at these finals.
“This is a different game altogether, especially because we are on neutral ground. The stakes are also different. These are the finals, so there will be a real fight, and the best team
on the day will win. We will be hoping to push one gear up from the way we played against the DRC, and the most important thing will be to correct the mistakes we made, especially in
front of goals. That is our biggest problem and it’s our biggest worry at the moment. We need to finish our attacks and hit the net,” he said.