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Zim's ranking plummet: Is Mapeza the right man for the job?

[Posted 17 Sep 2010]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Warriors" free fall in FIFA/Coca-cola rankings

According to the latest FIFA/Coca-cola rankings released on Wednesday 15 September, Zimbabwe's senior national soccer team saw its rankings plummet further from 113 to 118.

Zimbabwe's Warriors, once rated the top 7th African footballing nation, is now in the backwaters of continental football at number 32.

The Warriors are in real danger of missing out on being seeded when the draw for the COSAFA 2010 edition are made. COSAFA has announced that the seeding will be based on FIFA rankings. It will be a shame if the COSAFA champions are to be seen competing in the preliminaries of a Cup in which the are the defending champions. 

Those in Zimbabwe who are not happy with Norman Mapeza's candidature for the Warriors' substantive coach position, are quick to point out that the Warriors were 10th when he took over. Now, Mapeza's critics have argued, Zimbabwe has fallen from 110th to 118th under Mapeza's leadership.

Mapeza's critics are quick to point out to the 0-2 loss at the hands of Botswana in a friendly match on 4 August and the 1-1 away draw in Liberia on 5 September as the main reasons for Zimbabwe's continued fall from grace. Arguments have been proferred as to why the Warriors post appear to be too big shoes for Mapeza to fill.

In all fairness to Mapeza, he took only locally based players to Botswana for a hastily arranged friendly match. It is difficult to totally blame Mapeza for the loss to Botswana and the 1-1 draw in Liberia. If ZIFA had arranged for the friendly on time, foreign-based players from South Africa could have been transported to Botswana for the tie. Again ZIFA failed to arrange a friendly match for the team on 11 August, a FIFA date for such matches.

While a point from Liberia is better than nothing, Zimbabwe's local journalists must be castigated for celebrating the 1 point Mapeza brought back as if winning 3 points in Liberia was such an uphill task. With better tactics from the Warriors' bench, Zimbabwe could have brought back 3 points from Monrovia.

Critics will point out to a poor choice of especially the strike-force by Mapeza. For a man who played at the highest level, Mapeza should be aware of the strengths of his strikers. Mapeza's preferred strike partnership in Monrovia was not one of the best though-out partnerships.

Musona is Zimbabwe's hottest property at the moment. That is granted. While his strength is at creating opportunities for team mates as a play-maker, he is not a prolific goal-scorer. His better role is to play as a supporting striker, with a bit of a free role to drift from left to right, in search of gaps in the opposition defence.

His strike partner in Monrovia, Edward Sadomba, is not even a better striker than Musona. His goal-scoring rate per game is not very convincing, even in the Sudan league. In Zimbabwe and South Africa, he is known as an attacking midfielder, something he appears to excel at, rather than scoring goals regularly.

It is for the above reasons that Mapeza's decisions to pair Musona and Sadomba was not only surprising, it was worrying if one considers the fact that a coach must have a better understanding of the playing staff than anyone else.

What is more worrying is the fact that a proven goal scorer at both club and country level, Nyasha Mushekwi, sat on the bench for about 74 minutes, and was only introduced as a consequence of the injury suffered by Musona. This is a player whose confidence at that stage was sky high, having scored twice in one match for his club Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa' opening league match.  Mapeza appears to lack faith in Mushekwi's abilities.

Deploying Musona and Sadomba is what some newspapers in the country were proposing days before players trooped into camp. And some players whom Mapeza called into camp appear to be favourites of some newspaper colmnists who have been accused in some quarters of campaigning for Mapeza's appointment as the new substantive coach. It is not clear whether the Warriors' line-up in Liberia two weeks ago had something to do with these allegations.

Questions have also been raised regarding Mapeza's reasons for dropping certain players from the squad and including some in similar circumstances in the same squad.

Mapeza's tactics from the bench have led others to believe that may be he needs more time to learn the ropes at national team level before he is thrown into the deep end. However, one has to balance that with other candidates that the ZIFA board was set to consider at a 10 am indaba today before announcing the successful candidate.

The only foreign coach who was interviewed and is worth mentioning as Mapeza's competitor for the post is Tom Saintfeit, the Belgian who currently coaches Namibia national team. Despite strong interest in Saintfeit from some ZIFA board members, there is nothing in his biography to prove that he can do a better job than Mapeza.

Mapeza has also been around the Warriors set-up for a considerable time now and has built a rapport with the players. Inspite of his short-comings from the bench, he appears to be the better candidate of the two coaches in what has become a two horse race before ZIFA announces its final decision. 


Ezekiel Charika posted comment on 18-Sep-2010 05:20:55

Yes, Mapeza is the right candidate for this job. All coaches have their shortcomings. I would support him for this post although he dissapointed me in the 1-1 Afcon qualifiers draw.

In that game we actually played without a gunman. I think if he was the one coaching Drogba, Drogba would not play games. But coaches with vision would understand that a gunman does not need to be stylish, he has to score goals, period. I hope our coach, whether its Mapeza or someone else, will undertand that.

Anyway, we must rally our support behind whoever is chosen. We have to respect the board's decision.

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