BY HENRY MHARA
WARRIORS coach Zdravko Logarušić has refused to take responsibility for the team’s dismal performance at the African Nations Championships (Chan) tournament underway in Cameroon, instead choosing to blame it on poor preparations.
Zimbabwe were the first team to crash out of the tournament after losing all their three group game matches.
They only scored one goal in those three matches and conceded five to register their worst performance at the tournament reserved for players playing in domestic leagues.
Speaking for the first time since exiting the tourney, Logarušić said it would have been a “miracle” had Zimbabwe fared any better than they did.
“There was no official game for more than 14 months in Zimbabwe. We know of the COVID-19 situation but Zimbabwe we were the only team at the tournament who were without a running league. We were the only team who were very limited in preparation,” said Logarušć.
The Croat has been under fire since the Warriors’ exit, with some critics baying for his head.
Former Warriors star Alois Bunjira is one of the people who have come out guns blazing. He admits that the team did not prepare well, but still believes they should have done better. He says the coach should shoulder the blame.
“He is hugely responsible for the tragic results at the Chan. He didn’t prepare the team. He had the opportunity and he didn’t use it. We didn’t have a league running and that was a perfect opportunity to assemble the team much early and condition the players. Even in the short time he assembled and got camp, he was busy doing trials, wasting precious time. The COVID-19 outbreak in camp could have been a result of those friendly matches played outside the team’s bubble. I don’t know if Zifa should fire him, but he is largely to blame,” Bunjira said
However, Lugarusic differs.
“To go into the tournament without proper preparation, with the players who have not been in the football field for so long, result is not something that is special in the circumstances. Some people will think that we could have done better but we have to be realistic at times,” he said.
Zimbabwe lost their opening match to Cameroon 1-0 before they fell 3-1 against Burkina Faso in a match they needed to avoid defeat to take their chances of qualification to the last group match against Mali.
The Warriors went on to lose the dead rubber match 1-0.
“We have to take some positives from the tournament. Some of the things that we should be happy about is that we gave four Under-23 players a chance to play for the senior team. We also had a player who was signed by Simba club from Tanzania and a Zambian club is also finalising to sign another player, a striker from our team. So looking at all those circumstances, I think we achieved,” noted Logarušić.
Defender Peter Muduhwa, one of the few regulars in the Chan team signed for Simba SC and will play for the team in the Caf Champions League.
Reports suggest that striker Farau Matare is headed for Nkana FC after impressing the Zambian side.
While some critics want to see Lugarusic’s back as soon as possible and are calling for his resignation, it seems he is not going anywhere. Zifa have thrown their weight behind him.
“Let’s focus on the challenge in front of us which is the Afcon qualifiers,” Logarušić said.
Zimbabwe resumes their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification quest in March with crucial clashes against Botswana and Zambia, needing at least four points to qualify for the finals.
“I’m hoping we will have all our players with proper match fitness. If we can get all the players in proper football fitness conditions, then we can talk about results. We have a chance to qualify for Afcon, but we have to focus properly. Let us be united for the challenge in front of us in March and after that we will look forward to the World Cup qualification.”
The Warriors are second in Group H of the Afcon qualifiers with five points, one ahead of third placed Botswana. Zambia are bottom on three points with two rounds of matches remaining.
Zimbabwe travel to Gaborone on March 22 with a chance of wrapping up their qualification if they win this match and Zambia lose to Algeria. They host Chipolopolo a week later at the National Sports Stadium.
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara