BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
He arrived late for this match and also stood up very late into the match to score a goal that made the difference; and one that sparred Zimbabwe some blushes, rescuing a World Cup dream that was threatening to end in an embarrassing fashion.
By the time Khama Billiat scored the winning goal two minutes into referee’s optional time, non-believers in the National Sports Stadium had started to troop
out thinking it was all, but over for the Warriors.
Those who stayed behind did so all in vein hope rather than real conviction that the tie could be saved with Somalia having equalised on the 85th minute to
leave Zimbabwe seeking a further two goals for them to progress to the group stage of the 2022 World Cup whose finals will be staged in Qatar.
Somalia had levelled the score through dangerous forward Omali Abdull who capitalised on a defensive error by captain Alec Mudimu after Marshall Munetsi had
given Zimbabwe the lead with a bicycle kick from a corner kick on the 82nd minute.
With the scores at 1-all after 85 minutes of play, Zimbabwe needed a miracle or maybe a magician and in Billiat they sure found one.
Although Knox Mutizwa thrust Zimbabwe back into the lead two minutes from full time from a free-kick outside the penalty area, it was unthinkable they would
claw back and book a ticket to the group stage.
Billiat, however, ensured Zimbabwe’s qualification with a perfect finish, dancing past one defender and then arrowed the ball into the far right corner, with
his left foot. Billiat arrived in the country a day before the match and never trained with his teammates, as coach Joel Antipas decided to call out one of the
country’s best players following the surprise defeat in the first leg.
The goal was greeted with jubilation by fans whose dejection was instantly wiped off their faces with a huge sense of relief sinking in.
With Zimbabwe’s chances precariously poised, they needed a moment of magic when Billiat found the top corner of the goal.
Antipas, who for long faced the ignominy of being booted out by the lowest ranked team on the continent, was a relieved man after the match.
“I am quite happy to win against the so-called small team. There are no more small teams in football. It was difficult, but we dominated the entire match and
created chances. They (Somalia) sat back and relied on counter attacks. They got an opportunity and scored, it became difficult for us, but we kept probing and
pushing. It was that belief which gave us the victory. I am happy with the team, they have only been together for two days. If the team can have more time
together, it can improve,” Antipas said.
Somalia coach Bashir Hayford said: “It’s a great opportunity for the Somalia national team to be part of the World Cup qualifiers. Many countries underrate
Somalia and now we are coming up. We knew the opposition was tough because we all watched Zimbabwe at the Africa Cup of Nations so we knew it was not an easy
Zimbabwe: E Chipezeze, D Lunga, A Mudimu, T Hadebe, I Nekati, M Munetsi, O Karuru, K Billiat, E Rusike (T Dzukamanja ’89), C Augusto (K Mutizwa ’58), K Mahachi
Somalia: Said Ali, Yonis Farah, Mohamud Mohamed, Ahmed Ahmed, Abel Mohamed, Ahmed Mohamed, Abdulaziz Yousef (Abas Mohamed, 61st minute), Abdulsamed Abdullahi,
Anwar Shakunda, O ah Mohamed, Hussein Mohamed (Eyman hussein, 75th minute)