Editorial Comment: Warriors could have done better

THE Zimbabwe Warriors failed to, at least, reach the quarter-finals of the 2017 Nations Cup finals, after crashing out at the group stages once again, despite having given this country a lot of optimism with their spirited display in their first game against Algeria.

We share the fans’ disappointment sparked by our boys’ failure to do some basics, like keeping their defensive shape intact in the do-or-die game against Tunisia, and committing some elementary mistakes which led us to lose that crucial match and, with it, ensure we were eliminated from AFCON.

We also share the fans’ disappointment in some of the questionable decisions made by our coach Callisto Pasuwa, especially in the way he selected particular players for particular assignments and, somehow, kept having faith in them even though they had let him, and the nation, down.

Right up to now, we can’t understand why our coach didn’t see the value of changing his back four players – Hardlife Zvirekwi, Onismor Bhasera, Costa Nhamoinesu and Elisha Muroiwa – even though he should have read from the first game against Algeria that they were not up to the task.

Muroiwa, in particular, had a very disappointing tournament and that he kept being played in all the matches, lasting the entire 90 minutes, is a shocker which only Pasuwa can explain.

We had raised issues about Muroiwa’s suitability to occupy the crucial position of central defender, at a tournament as tough as the AFCON finals where we were going to face quality opponents, especially given the fact that the Dynamos defender was short on match fitness after having spent a large part of last season sidelined by injury.

But Pasuwa, somehow, kept trusting his man, even when it was clear to everyone that he was the weak link in our defence and was heaping a lot of pressure on his fellow defenders, rather than throwing in the young and athletic Teenage Hadebe, a defender who can also score goals as he showed during the friendly matches.

Of course, we acknowledge that we were unlucky that our best player, Knowledge Musona, arrived in Gabon not fully fit, with his injury restricting him to a cameo role in the first game against Algeria and then sidelining him completely from the second match against Senegal.

With Musona, and the quality he brings to the team, which he showed when he came in for the last game against Tunisia, our Warriors lacked the cutting edge in attack.

But, while we acknowledge that our coach could have done better, if he had rotated his squad and brought in some fresh legs than sticking with a number of players who were clearly overwhelmed by playing at this level of the game, we don’t share the sentiments of those who say that Pasuwa has become a worthless coach overnight.

That he was exposed in Gabon is very clear but maybe we expected too much from someone who has never played at this level of football, has never coached at this level of the game and, on the occasions he took Dynamos into the CAF Champions League, his shortcomings were very clear for us to see.

What we should ask ourselves, is what we should have done to empower our coach, to help him prepare for the challenges that he was going to face at this tournament, and ensure he would be fully equipped to deal with them when it mattered.

Our colleagues over the Limpopo should have shown us the way last year when Mamelodi Sundowns qualified for the CAF Champions League final.

The people of South Africa, to their credit, understood what a victory for Sundowns would mean for their nation and, rather than just leave it to the Brazilians, the club’s leadership drafted in then Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba to help Pitso Mosimane for the final battle against Zamalek in Egypt.

They understood that two competent heads are better than one and they were rewarded with Sundowns getting the result they required to win Africa’s premier inter-club tournament.

Sadly, for us, when Sunday Chidzambwa, a coach who has been to the Nations Cup before and understands the challenges that come with coaching at the tournament, was asked by ZIFA to help Pasuwa, it triggered an outcry from a football community that claimed the veteran gaffer was trying to steal the glory of his former player.

Pasuwa, himself, didn’t help matters either by his behaviour which appeared to suggest he wasn’t happy with getting a helping hand from Chidzambwa, thereby influencing negative public opinion on what was clearly a noble move, while he also turned down an approach from George Mbwando – a man who has played at two Nations Cup finals – to help him.

We believe this isn’t the time for us to be throwing brickbats at each other but, rather, we need a sober review of what happened in Gabon and start planning for the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers and use the experience we gained in Gabon so that we make it to the AFCON finals again.

Both Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat are 26 years old and, in two years’ time, we feel they will at the peak of their athletic powers to ensure that we can take on the best on the con- tinent.

Article Source: The Herald