THE Warriors’ prospects of qualifying for the Qatar World Cup received a major blow after they fell to minnows Somalia in a preliminary round qualifying first leg match at the Stade El Hadj Hassan Gouled Stadium in Djibouti, last night.
BY HENRY MHARA
The victory was Somali’s first in a qualifying game since they defeated Kenya in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in 1984.
It is also their first-ever in a World Cup qualifying campaign, and their first victory of any kind since January 2009.
Somalian players celebrated the final whistle like they had won the World Cup itself. And no one will begrudge them.
This is a team that had not won a competitive match since the turn of the millennium, where they played 28 matches, losing 27 and drawing once.
Yesterday’s match was played in neutral Djibouti, the designated venue amid ongoing instability in Mogadishu. Somalia scored the only goal of the game with an 87th minute header as the Ocean Stars, ranked 202nd in the world — Africa’s joint lowest side — defeated the Joey Antipas coached side, who are 90 places ahead of them in the Fifa rankings and 27th in Africa.
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The Warriors will now have a lot to do to overturn the result in the second leg match set for the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday.
In a match that Zimbabwe was expected to sleep walk to a win, they dominated the ball, but never really troubled the Somali goalkeeper, especially in the first half when both teams failed to register a shot on target. The game was dire.
It was the hosts who actually created the first real chance on the hour mark, but were thwarted by a brilliant Elvis Chipezeze save.
Five minutes later, Somalia should have taken the lead when they again broke on the counter, but the chance was wasted when a striker headed over from a metre out.
Thabani Kamusoko then provided the Warriors’ first real chance on 77th minute, but his long range shot was pushed wide by the alert goalkeeper.
Knox Mutizwa then missed a seemingly easy chance for Zimbabwe moments before Somalia scored when he was sent through just seconds after coming on, but his shot was blocked by the goalkeeper.
It was a bad decision by the striker who decided to shoot from a difficult angle when squaring the ball for teammates could have produced a better outcome
The Warriors were punished immediately when from the rebound, the Ocean Stars broke on the counter and the ball ended up in the back of Chipezeze’s net.
Antipas’ men were presented with a chance to respond instantly when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the box, but Mutizwa’s shot did not trouble the goalkeeper.
Evans Rusike then skied over in injury time as the Warriors became desperate for an equaliser.
Zimbabwe will now need to beat Somalia by a two-goal margin at home to progress to the group stages, which in all honesty, should not be a big problem for them.
If the Warriors win and progress to the next stage as expected, they will join the other 40 African nations who will then be split into 10 groups of four to play home and away round robin matches, with group winners advancing to the third and final qualifying rounds.
The 10 teams will be drawn against each other to play home and away matches, with the five winners advancing to represent Africa at the 22nd edition of the Fifa World Cup to be played in Qatar.
Warriors team: E Chipezeze, M Phiri, A Mudimu, P Muduwa, D Lunga, N Munetsi, T Kamusoko, T Dzvukamanja (K Mutizwa, 85’), K Mahachi, E Rusike, A Muskwe (C Augusto, 74’)