BY Kevin Mapasure in Yaounde Cameroon
Zimbabwe . . . . (2)
Guinea . . . . . (0) 1
The mission for Zimbabwe, in their final Group B Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) match against Guinea here today, was to make reparations on their battered image after they were knocked out of the competition with defeats in their first two matches.
Even though pride was the only prize available to them, they played this match like their dear lives depended on it.
With the win yesterday, they showed that they could stand tall against some of the continent’s finer teams and fans back home will be wondering what went wrong in the first two matches.
Captain Knowledge Musona, whose international career has been the subject of speculation, showed that he still has what it takes with a headed goal on 26 minutes.
Another senior citizen in the national team, Kuda Mahachi, whose inclusion in the starting line-up fans had clamoured for prior to the match, having only been a second half substitute against Malawi, justified the coach’s decision with a good goal that narrowly beat the half-time whistle.
Everyone had a point to prove in this match, where coach Norman Mapeza was under another audition with the 2023 Afcon qualifiers looming.
The players had so much to prove as they sought to avoid falling on the wrong side of history.
Had they lost, they would have been the only group to return from the finals with no single point to their name.
Don’t be fooled that this win will do nothing and never for one moment think that a result was not important for Guinea.
They were in danger of finishing third and they would not have wanted that as it would have exposed them to the hazards of failing to qualify.
They threw in everything, including the kitchen sink, but Zimbabwe, who failed game management against Senegal and Malawi, looked well-schooled this time.
Goalkeeper Talbert Shunba was in fine form, often climbing the highest to collect the high crosses employed by their opponents.
Zimbabwe survived a number of scares as Guinea threatened to take an early lead in the first period, but Never Tigere sent in a cross from a corner kick which was recycled for him to pick out Musona’s head.
The former Hoffenheim striker obliged with his first goal of the tournament.
The celebrations were not as frenzied, but when Mahachi found the bottom corner in the last minute of the first half, it was followed by a dance routine, which will certainly get a lot of airplay.
Guinea struggled in the first half as they were kept at bay, limited only to speculative shots. But they returned a different beast in the second as Zimbabwe retreated.
Liverpool star Naby Keita showed why he plays for one of Europe’s best teams, often carrying the ball from deep into the Zimbabwe
He was rewarded for his industry with a goal five minutes after the break and it looked like they would get another as they camped in the Zimbabwe half.
Mapeza made a number of changes which helped the team manage their lead better this time around.
They return home early but with somewhere to start from. There will be no time to dwell on the failure, as reflecting on it will help build for the future.
Zimbabwe: T Shumba, T Kamusoko, G Takwara, P Muduhwa, G Murwira, B Kangwa, N Tigere, K Mahachi, J Zemura (T Kadewere, 75), K Musona (O Bhasera, 46), A Muskwe (P Dube, 75)
Guinea: A Keita, O Kante, M Kamara, I Conte, I Cisse, I Moriba (M Dallo, 63), M Kane, N Keita, I Sylla, S Kaba (M Sylla, 63), J Kante
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