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Date: 23 November 2017

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

Zimbabwe (Castle Lager) Premier Soccer League: 2013
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Warriors COSAFA performance-an interim analysis

[Posted 19 Jul 2013]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Warriors COSAFA performance-an interim analysis
Zimbabwe has now played two matches at the on-going COSAFA tournament being hosted by neighbours Zambia, and obviously there are some positives and negatives to be drawn from the Warriors' performance thus far, either in terms of the technical bench's tactical awareness or players' performance or response to coaching tactics.

In this analysis, we consider it more prudent to give a breakdown of performance by looking at the following: whether the technical bench has demonstrated the required technical awareness at this level,  the playing resources at the coach's disposal, defensive organisation of the team, midfield combinations, and strike force.

Players' at the coach's disposal

The coach has made no secret of the fact that he was limited in his selection of players. His concern is understandable. Players such as Augustine Mbara, Patson Jaure, Washington Pakamisa, Nelson Maziwisa, Osborne Mukuradare, Daniel Veremu, among others, could have made a difference, if the coach had been allowed to select all the best there is in the country. The key phrase here is "all the best there is". He was forced to only pick two players from each Castle Lager PSL club in Zimbabwe to avoid disrupting the Castle Lager PSL's league program.

However, it is unacceptable to use this as an excuse for the manner the team has performed at the COSAFA tournament thus far. The players at the coach's disposal are good enough to compete with COSAFA's best and can certainly play better than they have done thus far. It is no secret that Zimbabwe has abundance of talent. If the Warriors fail to retain their title, Dieter Klaus Pagels should not be allowed to use the fact that he was limited to only two players at club level as an excuse. South Africa could not pick on their best players such as Siphiwe Tshabalala, Bernard Parker, Eric Mathoho, Siyabonga Sangweni, Tshepo Masilela, Itumeleng Khune, among others. Yet Bafana Bafana reached the semi-finals of COSAFA 2013. One could argue that Zimbabwe's situation is no different, and Bafana only lost to this year's finalists Zambia only on penalties. So, NO EXCUSE PLEASE MR. PAGELS! Despite Tendai Ndoro having only earned his first national team cap in the Malawi match, it can be argued that he is one of the best strikers in Zimbabwe's PSL at the moment. Having Felix Chindungwe, Ronald Chitiyo, Eric Chipeta, Devon Chafa who has been improving with each game and Ocean Mushure, is reason enough to argue that Zimbabwe should be in a good position to defend their title which they won in 2009 on home soil.

Technical bench's tactical awareness

Credit should go to the Zimbabwe technical team for managing to work with the 'limited' resources at their disposal. Pagels deserves kudos for his strong emphasis on the passing game. When watching the first half of the quarter-final tie between Malawi and Zimbabwe, one had a feeling that the crowd at the stadium in Zambia  was treated to quality football by the Warriors' slick passing game. There is always a downside to Zimbabwe's tiki-taka style of play. The Warriors almost always seem to forget when to change this style to suit the occasion, and use a more direct type of approach, especially considering that the team has powerful forwards like Tendai Ndoro and Last Chibwiro. The coach does not appear to want to maximise on Zimbabwe's natural strengths. If Pagels could marry the build-up-from-the-back approach with our speedy wing play, Zimbabwe will score more goals in each match.

The coach's decision to field two attack-minded midfielders in central midfield such as Masimba Mambare and Charles Sibanda has not been working effectively, and Pagels' stubborn insistence on sticking to a formula which almost backfired against Malawi is difficult to understand. Mambare and Sibanda seem confused as to the exact role they are supposed to play in midfield, leading to Mambare pouring forward, leaving Chafa alone in central midfield to mark too many marauding Lesotho midfielders during the semi-final tie on Wednesday at Levy Mwanawasa stadium. While Pagels was not oblivious to the fact that Lesotho uses two attacking midfielders who attack from the centre and wings, employing a midfield of the ineffective Sibanda, Mambare, Chitiyo and Silas Songani is not only surprising, but shocking from a tactical point of view. I mean, hello, Sibanda cannot mark, Mambare was confused and kept on going forward when he should have been a central midfielder, how did Pagels expect Chafa and the defence to cope with a team which attacks from deep and the centre? It is exactly the weakness that Lesotho exploited, when they attacked Zimbabwe in the 3rd minute. Chafa was exposed, Mambare and Sibanda were at sea, Felix Chindungwe was forced to commit, the rear was left open, and 1-0! Lesotho were in front. Those are basics which Pagels got horribly wrong.

Pagels' tactical awareness was terribly exposed in the Malawi game. Malawi with a man down, re-organised, identified too many gaps in Zimbabwe's midfield. The Flames also realised that if you win the second ball, Zimbabwe are vulnerable because there is only one person in central midfield for Zimbabwe, Chafa, who can mark, and they really troubled Zimbabwe in the second half, despite the Warriors playing with a one man advantage. Any intelligent tactician can realise that Zimbabwe are very uncomfortable when they lose the ball, their questionable fitness levels are exposed, the disorganisation in central midfield is exposed and it is easy to hit at them on counter attacks. Zimbabwe requires two strong midfielders who can play the ball. Many people did not have faith in Chafa, but he has proved to be the saviour in that midfield. Playing Nicholas Guyo or Prosper Matizanadzo to partner Chafa could have been a better option than playing Mambare as Chafa's partner.

Defensive organisation

The central defensive pairing of Chipeta and Chindungwe has done well thus far in the tournament. Prosper Matizanadzo was often exposed as a result of the many holes created in midfield by the confusion between Sibanda and Mambare, therefore, he was a ball of nerves against Lesotho. Otherwise, if the midfield is re-organised, there should not be too many problems at the back. Granted, Mushure is not strong defensively, but he compensates that with his attacking prowess. Hence the need to strengthen midfield to avoid leaving the flanks exposed.

Midfield combinations

As already hinted, Pagels got his midfield combinations wrong! Mambare is a good attacking midfielder who can chip in with goals. He loves attacking, forcing him to stay in a deeper midfield role is like forcing a child to sit on a chair without toys for two hours! Something is bound to give, and thats what we have been seeing at the COSAFA tournament thus far.  Again, one cannot play with five midfielders and lone striker in a knockout tournament like COSAFA. If Malawi and Lesotho's coaches were more tactically aware than they were, they could easily have restricted Zimbabwe to knocking the ball around without achieving anything out of it. Zimbabwe need to play with four midfielders and two strikers, with one striker playing as a shadow striker. This is probably where Masimba Mambare can best fit. He loves sticking it out in attack. Sibanda appears out of sorts, and Pagels may want to try another tactic and re-organise his team for the final against Zambia.

Strike force

Credit to Tendai Ndoro. e has played the lone striker role brilliantly. He has been left isolated many a times, but he has managed to use his strength and goal poaching instincts to good and effective use, especially in the semi-final clash against Lesotho.

Verdict

Zimbabwe has demonstrated that it has immense potential. The team should improve on its technical awareness. The Warriors have the kind of players who can easily defend the COSAFA title. The return of Hardlife Zvirekwi should give the coach more options at the back. He could take Chipeta back to central defence, Prosper Matizanadzo could partner Chafa in midfield if and when the team requires some bite, with Prosper playing the more defensive role, Chafa in a more advanced role, while Sibanda can be dropped to the bench, and Mambare will shadow gunslinger Ndoro.

THERE IS JUST NO EXCUSE FOR NOT BEATING ZAMBIA TOMORROW. ZIMBABWE IS FAR STRONGER THAN ZAMBIA IN TERMS OF INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS, EVEN WITHOUT SOME OF THE SO CALLED ' BEST' PLAYERS FROM THE LOCAL PSL. IN FACT, SAYING THAT THE COUNTRY DOES NOT HAVE ITS CREAM OF THE CROP FROM THE LOCAL PSL AT THE COSAFA TOURNAMENT COULD BE MISLEADING. THERE IS QUALITY IN THE WARRIORS DRESSING ROOM! SO, JUST GO FOR IT BOYS!

Lets talk  football. Send us your comments to murbright@gmail.com.   



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