BY HENRY MHARA IN CAIRO, EGYPT
ZIMBABWE . . . . . . . . . 0
DRC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2) 4
ZIMBABWE’s chaotic 2019 Africa Cup of Nations expedition came to an embarrassing end at the June 30 Stadium in Cairo last night after a humiliating defeat to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Two goals in either half by DRC saw the Warriors crashing out without a win, with the biggest defeat at the tournament so far, and concluded what has been an eventful campaign for the Warriors.
A revolt in camp initially threatened the team’s participation with the players threatening not to participate in the tournament opener over bonuses and allowances.
Kuda Mahachi was almost sent back home after a social media outburst, complaining over his non selection in the team.
Consequently, they lost their opening match and then drew against Uganda, which gave them a fighting chance to go through to the second round with a victory over Drc last night.
They just needed to win the match to go through, but by the time the clock clicked 35 minutes, their fate had already been sealed.
A goal keeping blunder by Elvis Chipezeze, who was a last minute change to the starting lineup, gifted DRC the opener scored by Jonathan Bolingi just after four minutes before Cedric
Bakambu doubled the lead on 35th minute.
Bakambu scored his second from the penalty spot just after the hour mark, and substitute Britt Assombalonga compounded the Warriors’ woes late on.
Zimbabwe finished the tournament bottom of Group A with a point, while DRC finished third with three points behind leaders Egypt on six points and Uganda on four points.
After all the talk the facts are that the Warriors finished with a single point, just one goal and at the bottom of their pool.
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga was forced to alter his starting line up just before the match after first choice goalkeeper George Chigova picked a hamstring injury during warm up.
Chipezeze fumbled a free kick from just outside the box, with the ball bouncing off the cross bar before Bolingi pounced with a header to push the ball over the line.
The response to the early setback was encouraging as the Warriors started to boss possession with Pfumbidzai almost finding the net straight from a corner while Musona’s cross at the far post found no takers.
And when the Warriors looked good for a leveler, it was DRCwho scored their second against the run of play.
A pass from deep opened the Warriors defense with Bakambu breaching a poorly set-up offside trap to go eye ball to eyeball with Chipezeze, and the striker composed himself to coolly finish with an out footer just after the half hour mark.
It almost got worse for Zimbabwe a minute after the restart when substitute Britt Assombalonga was put through but couldn’t beat Chipezeze who blocked the rushed shot before Bakambu failed to connect a cross with the goal gapping.
Khama Billiat was struggling with his game, but then exploded on 58th minute to go clear but instead of shooting, he decided to cut back for Mushekwi who slipped. Musona recycled the ball on to the path of the China based striker who tried a back heel which failed to fool the goalkeeper.
Any hopes of a fight back were extinguished on 65th minute when Chipezeze hacked Bakambu inside the box and the striker dusted himself up to convert.
The final nail on the coffin was struck on 78th minute when Chipezeze again fumbled a Lina Elia shot, and Assombalonga turned the ball home from an angle.
Zimbabwe: E Chipezeze, T Darikwa, T Hadebe, L Mhlanga, R Pfumbidzai, D Phiri, M Munetsi (T Kadewere, 69′), O Karuru, T Chawapihwa (N Mushekwi, 51′), K Billiat, K Musona (K Mahachi,
DRC: L Ngumbi, I Mpeko, N Muzinga, M Tisserand, A Akolo, Y Mulumbu (L Elia, 75′), J Bolingi, W Mako, J Maghoma, C Mbemba, C Bakambu