COACH Kalisto Pasuwa’s irksome tactics and defensive errors combined to gift Algeria an undeserved draw in the opening Group B African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier in Gabon on Sunday evening.
There was a glaring absence of fighting spirit in our boys in the second half, which left their fans back home distressed and demoralised more than anything else. So what went wrong following an enthralling first half performance that saw the Warriors running rings around their bemused North African opponents?
The Warriors made better use of the ball in the opening half, with some strong running and creative movement to come from one goal down and take a 2-1 lead into the half time break.
Their first half performance was breathtaking and that they overturned a one goal deficit even converted their strongest doubters to believe that something historic was about to happen.
Zimbabwe have been to two previous Afcon finals where they lost both their opening matches.
It looked as though things were going to change as the Warriors took a stranglehold of the match despite losing chief goal scorer Knowledge Musona to a hamstring injury and conceding a wonder goal by Caf African Footballer of the Year Riyad Mahrez.
In fact, the Algerian goal seemed to spur our boys into action and we couldn’t help believing, especially with the Warriors leading 2-1 and launching raid after raid.
Considering the number of goal scoring chances the boys created, it is really difficult to accept that we ended up settling for a point when all three seemed safe in our hunting bag.
There is no doubt, given their first half performance, that our Warriors are capable of beating any side at the Afcon.
But why was our second half performance so lacklustre?
Others have blamed numerous squandered scoring opportunities and the drastic change of formation in the second half to “park the bus” as the reasons we failed to defend our lead. The collapse of the initial disciplined formation led to a sudden lack in player confidence.
We defended too deep and surrendered overall possession to the Desert Foxes, resulting in relentless attacks.
We defended in numbers, but had no plan in place to attack and as a result we constantly gave the ball away and made too many stray passes allowing the Algerians to lay siege on our goal area.
Once we defended too deep, the game became a ticking time bomb and individual errors were bound to shorten the fuse.
It was clear that we had not set the strategy well and most fans blamed it squarely on Pasuwa.
But why would Pasuwa all of a sudden change a winning formation and play players out of position?
With his choice of substitutes or lack of them, Pasuwa laid bare one uncomfortable but hidden truth that he might not have the final say in team selection after all.
He is a man under pressure from different interests, ranging from player agents to Zifa officials, to field certain players.
While he has previously brushed aside talk of player agents’ power, sometimes a close analysis of manpower deployed onto the field of play can show that something is not right.
For example, why was Cuthbert Malajila preferred over Tendai Ndoro when that substitution was made? For the record, Malajila is not a regular at Bidvest Wits in the South African Premiership and has been struggling for goals. He has only found the net twice at Wits.
In contrast, Ndoro has scored 11 out of his team Orlando Pirates’ 15 league goals this season and leads the Absa Premiership’s scorers’ chart.
After all Ndoro scored in the Warriors’ 1-1 draw in their final friendly ahead of the tournament, so what was not preferred about this proven goal scorer?
Ndoro harasses defenders whenever he plays, something we didn’t see from Malajila. Simply put, Malajila represents the past and if merit and present form had been used, Ndoro should have started the game and we dare say even ahead of Nyasha Mushekwi.
It may not be in the public eye, but we know that Pasuwa is put under tremendous pressure to field certain players and sometimes in an effort to frustrate the underhand forces, he makes strange selections that baffle all and sundry.
There are too many fingers in the Warriors’ cake and we believe that as long as these undue forces continue trying to influence player selection, we will remain an “almost” team.
We believe that if these interested forces backed off, the Warriors would have made headlines on Sunday.
Although he personified calmness in his post- match interview and expressed satisfaction with the point earned on Sunday, it must be frustrating for Pasuwa to think that there are certain people not interested in the Warriors’ results as long as their “boys” are fielded.
No matter how Pasuwa prepares the team, disappointment will continue to haunt the Warriors as long as the issue of undue influence is not addressed.
We just threw a win away on Sunday due to unscrupulous individuals that want to personalise the game in our country.
Article Source: The Chronicle