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Date: 25 September 2017

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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Zim minus Musona can play better: Fact or Fiction?

[Posted 11 Sep 2012]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
In Musona"s absence, Billiat played a pivotal role in the Warriors win. So Bosso ke mang?
The performance of the Zimbabwe senior national soccer team at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday, in overcoming Angola 3-1 without talismanic striker Knowledge Musona has torched a debate on how indispensable the Hoffeheim TSG 1899 striker is to the Warriors.

So much was said before the encounter that without some of its key players (only those available after tens of other players remain suspended due to the match-fixing cases still to be completed), Zimbabwe would struggle against the Angolans, regulars at the past four AFCON finals.

Following a somewhat good result at home without the likes of Tinashe Nengomasha, Willard Katsande, Ovidy Karuru but more importantly without the team's star player in the past two years, Musona, people have gone back to the archives to try and check if it is a fact that without him, the Warriors are ordinary and incapable of achieving competent results.

Two matches come to mind, which the Warriors competed in without their star player, who was injured at the time.

The first match was a friendly encounter, a very difficult trans-Zambezi derby against the current African champions Zambia, a match which was played at Rufaro stadium on 10 August 2011, on an official Fifa international friendlies date, a Wednesday.

Both Zimbabwe and Zambia were missing some key players on the day but nonetheless fielded very competitive teams.  Chipolopolo missed key players like Christopher Katongo and Emannuel Mayuka, while the Warriors missed the likes of Musona, Nyasha Mushekwi, Noel Kaseke, Esrom Nyandoro, Onismor Bhasera, among other stars who were unavailable at the time.

Zimbabwe completely outplayed their northern neighbours, scoring two goals without reply in a solid 2-0 win. They achieved the feat without star player Musona and his strike-partner Mushekwi.

After that match, the second match the Warriors played without Musona (who was still injured) was in a 2012 AFCON qualifier in Harare against Liberia. Zimbabwe won that tie 3-0 to move to second spot in the qualifying Group A at the time.

In those two matches, it is midfielders who scored goals for Zimbabwe. Midfielders Khama Billiat and Willard Katsande, scored in both matches, and no single player scored a brace in both matches, as Ovidy Karuru grabbed the third goal in the 3-0 win over Liberia.

Clearly the Warriors played better as a team, and there was no reliance on a star player.  Team work carried the day for the Warriors.

While a lot has been said about play-makers and talismanic men, a closer look at the style of Zimbabwe's play will reveal that the misguided concept of relying on a single player has been the downfall of past Zimbabwean teams.

During the days of Shackman "Mr. Goals" Tauro, Stanley "Sinyo" Ndunduma, Stanford "Stix" Mtizwa and Joel "Jubilee" Shambo, there was no heavy reliance on a single player for goals. If Shaky failed to score, either Sinyo or Stix would score. Soccer was exciting because it was never a one-man show, but team work.

We have been told, there used to be a Moses Chunga, then a Peter Ndlovu and now Musona. While reference to these players is made with respect to their influence on the pitch, it should never mislead the Warriors players and the fans into thinking that such players could or can carry the team on their own.

If anything, if someone else fails to step up to the plate and demonstrate that they are important to the team, in the absence of the star player, the team will play without confidence. Every sports psychologist will tell you that self-belief in every player and confidence in a team as a unit will produce consistently good results.

It should therefore be welcome to see that in the current Warriors team, Musona is not necessarily the heart and soul of the team, contrary to what you have read in many newspapers in Zimbabwe.

The good thing with Musona is that he has this belief that if he does not score as a striker, nobody will. This motivates him to be on the score-sheet each time his team plays. His heart for his nation is amazing and it is difficult to doubt his commitment to the cause of his motherland.

It is good that Musona scores with some kind of regularity for the Warriors. Zimbabwe still need Musona's goal-scoring instincts and hearty performances in national colours.

His goals have helped Zimbabwe win some matches and earn some points, notably his goal in an away 1-1 draw against Liberia , his two goals in a 2-1 home win over Mali (in the last AFCON campaign) and his two goals in a 2-1 loss to Burundi and a 1-0 victory at home against the same opponents which helped Zim to pip the Swallows for a place in this final AFCON 2013 qualifier.

The downside of having Musona scoring in every important match when no other player chips in to make a contribution (in terms of goals) is that it breeds a dangerous dependence syndrome on Musona,  and it becomes dangerous when the technical team itself or fellow players come to believe that Musona is an indispensable part of the team.

NO PLAYER IS INDISPENSABLE. Or, should we say, NO PLAYER SHOULD BE INDISPENSABLE IN A TEAM.

Yet the reality on the ground in the world of soccer appears to suggest that even a very good team requires a leading light, a leader who inspires the team when chips are down or a player who puts the icing on a cake.

Barcelona has arguably been the best football club in the world in the past five years or so. Even the great Barca team has a Lionel Messi in their fold.

A great Real Madrid outfit has a Ronaldo to inspire them. BUT, a great SPAIN national soccer team does not really depend on David Villa for goals. Nor do the reigning World and European champions depend on the skills of Iniesta. There is Xavi, there is Ike Cassilas and defensive pillar Puyol to count on.

So, what should be the conclusion? Great national teams who conquer the world do not necessarily rely heavily on a single player, even though they do have one or two influential players in their ranks.

Therefore, the absence of Musona and other key players for Zimbabwe, who remain sidelined for various reasons, must have been a blessing in disguise for other Warriors players. Here are the facts and reasons:
  • The absence of Musona has given Khama Billiat a chance to show the nation and the world that he can step to the plate to become the key man of this Warriors team in a single match, and hopefully in more to come. It is not a coincidence that Billiat had a hand in all the three goals Zimbabwe scored on Sunday. Billiat has been the star player at Ajax Cape Town for the past two seasons. He tends to play second fiddle to Thulani Serero before the Bafana star left for Ajax Amsterdam. Billiat is arguably a better player than Serero. In the Warriors fold, he has been playing in the shadow of Musona. Billiat arguably has qualities to become a better player than Musona. Has his time come to prove his worth? Only time will tell.
  • The absence of key defenders such as Dickson Choto mainly due to injury and poor communication between Zifa and European/foreign clubs, Method Mwanjali, Thomas Sweswe and Daniel Veremu due to the ongoing Asiagate scandal investigations, has brought new defenders to the fore. Now we know of Carlington Nyadombo, we also now know that Nyandoro can play as a central defender, we have at last seen the need to recall Noel Kaseke and Bhasera.
  • On Sunday, the Warriors relied on team work and team work carried the day for Zimbabwe in terms of giving them a 2-goal advantage going into a tricky 2nd leg in Luanda, Angola in October. Good point to note is that three players were on the score-sheet in the 3-1 win over the Palencas Negras.
  • On three occasions when Musona was absent, the Warriors scored more than once and won on all occasions.
So, now, as the sotho-speaking people of South Africa would say "Bosso ke mang" (translated to mean, 'Who is the Boss now?). Is Billiat the new boss on the field for Zimbabwe?

Well, Billiat can easily become the play-maker in this Warriors team, but he is not the main star of the team and he is not the only one who can develop into a talismanic man of the team.

Where Musona or Billiat do not fulfill that role, someone else can. There is Ovidy Karuru who can rise to the occasion as has been seen on numerous occasions in the past. Yet there are others with potential. When Archford Gutu has settled down well, he can easily develop into a very influential player.

And what about young Denver Mukamba? The Dynamos  star is a great player in the making. If he keeps his feet on the table, he will develop into a massive influential player for club and country. 

Zimbabwe has fine talent to count on for now and the future. The key is to expose the entire team to more bonding sessions and expose the squad to more competitive matches at international level.

The performance of Sunday afternoon in Harare was great, but the second half revealed the lack of cohesion and inexperience at this level of the game when a team races a healthy lead. The deficiencies exposed can only be corrected through exposure to real game situations.

The Warriors themselves will be the first to admit that they are not a complete act as yet. The idea of team work and non-reliance on a star player is a good sign for things to come.

So, indeed there is evidence that the team can play well with or without Musona. An argument can even be made that the team has, in the past played better football in the absence of the man for long regarded as its talisman.

Do you agree with our views above? Whatever your opinion is,  please share those views with us by writing to us using brightonm@beezsports.com or murbright@gmail.com




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