BY HENRY MHARA IN JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA
WARRIORS coach Norman Mapeza is happy with the direction the team is taking despite crushing to a third straight defeat since he took charge.
Zimbabwe’s 1-0 defeat against South Africa at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Thursday night means they are yet to pick a win in five matches to remain bottom of Group G of the World Cup qualifiers.
Teboho Mokoena scored a first half header for Bafana Bafana, who are now three points clear at the top of the group, and a draw away in Ghana tomorrow will be enough for them to progress to the final round of the qualification process.
Mapeza’s men finish their qualifying campaign at home against Ethiopia tomorrow, looking to get their first win.
While the Warriors returned home yesterday empty-handed, there is a general feeling among fans that the team played well, and had they been clinical, they could have come out with at least a point.
Mapeza is also convinced that his team is making some progress as he builds towards January’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Cameroon.
“When I came, I said I will try my best to revive our World Cup campaign, but everyone knows our situation. Then, I said I have lost those two games against Ghana, so I am going to build a team for the Afcon finals next year. From my point of view, we are moving in the right direction. I want to build for the future,” Mapeza said.
Mapeza handed 18-year-old Prince Edward High School teenager Bill Antonio his debut in Warriors colours when he introduced him late in the match. He has vowed to infuse more youngsters into the team as he looks to freshen up the squad, whose average age is above 28.
“We are introducing youngsters. I still have some youngsters who I will continue giving these opportunities to shine. If you look at South Africa’s situation, the majority of them are Under-23s who played at the Olympics in Tokyo so they had a foundation,” the Warriors gaffer said.
“Back home, we never had any. Most of the guys are getting old, but what would be the solution? Say these guys are getting old, do we have replacements for those guys? Knowledge Musona is 31 and Khama (Billiat) is 30, where are the replacements going to come from is the big question?”
Mapeza has promised to ring changes for the match against Ethiopia as he continues to assess players who he will pick for the Afcon finals.
Jonah Fabisch, who has not been given a chance in the previous three times that he has been called for duty, is likely to finally get his opportunity.
Devine Lunga, Godknows Murwira, Peter Muduwa and goalkeepers Donovan Bernard and Taimon Mvula are some of the players in the squad who are yet to feature under Mapeza and could be thrown in against Ethiopia to stake their claims for a place to Cameroon.
Defender Alec Mudimu was suspended for the South Africa match, and is set to return to the starting line-up this weekend.
Follow Henry onTwitter @henrymhara