By Kevin Mapasure in Yaounde Cameroon
Warriors coach Norman Mapeza says he has drawn a lot of lessons from his first experience as a coach at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals after seeing his team bow out despite a win against Guinea in a Group B clash on Tuesday.
Mapeza presided over Zimbabwe’s first win at the tournament since 2006, but the Warriors head home after defeats to Malawi and Senegal condemned them to a basement finish.
His contract with Zifa was only for the Afcon finals and with boardroom squabbles playing out back home, his future is uncertain.
Zimbabwe plunge into action in the 2023 Afcon qualifiers starting in March and will need to have a coach in place to start preparing for the qualifiers once the draw is conducted at the end of this tournament.
The Warriors recorded a 2-1 win over Guinea which gave them reason to celebrate after disappointing in the first two matches.
Captain Knowledge Musona and Kuda Mahachi scored for Zimbabwe in the first half before a Naby Keita belter halved the deficit.
Guinea piled relentless pressure in the second half but Zimbabwe managed to control the game to the end.
Mapeza acknowledged that they had to hang in there against Guinea which he said was their most difficult match at the tournament.
“It was a good game of football, I think the most difficult we have played in this tournament, if you look at our games against Senegal and Malawi,” Mapeza reflected.
“Against Malawi we played so well, we had so many opportunities to put away unfortunately we ended up on the losing side, but today the boys worked so hard and I am proud of them. We had our moments, especially in the first half where we controlled the game. After we conceded the goal we managed to stay disciplined and I am happy for the boys.”
He said the way they lost the two matches despite playing well provided a lot of lessons for him to take home.
“So many lessons learnt, in the first game we conceded in the last 20 seconds and looking at the Malawi game we had so many opportunities, but we got punished because of two mistakes, so many lessons leant in this tournament. After losing the two games everybody was disappointed we were all dejected, I feel we should have got something from those two games. So coming into this game we had our pride at stake and that is why you saw those guys celebrating. For some of those boys it’s their first time to be here so for them it’s a massive achievement.”
He revealed Musona had asked to sit out the last game as he was not feeling well but had to be thrust in after a change in plans.
“Knowledge in our last training session when I spoke to him he said he wanted to take a rest and maybe play the last 30 or so minutes.
“We decided to put him back and he did well with that goal. He has contributed to our football massively, to me he is one of the legends.”
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