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Date: 14 December 2018

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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What the Brazil match means for some Warriors

[Posted 31 May 2010]
What the Brazil match means for some Warriors
It is an open secret that the once in a life time opportunity for Zimbabwe to meet the Samba Boys of Brazil is pregnant with significance. While the major focus of the local media has been the World Cup spin-offs for the country and boosting tourism in the country, the match will prove very important for some Warriors players who will be fortunate to get a run against the world’s most attractive football brand.

There are some Zimbabwean players who are making a long-awaited return to the Warriors fold, while for others, this match signifies a launching pad for their international careers with the national team. Matches have never come bigger than the Brazil match on Wednesday at the country’s premier stadium, the National Sports Stadium for Zimbabwean players and fans. Names like Zvenyika Makonese, Vusa Nyoni, Musawenkosi Mguni, Noel Kaseke, Knowledge Musona, Nyasha Mushekwi, Quincy Antipas, Kingston Nkatha come to mind.

Each of these players have either been absent from the national team in the past months or even years for one reason or the other, or they are simply new to the national team set up. Whatever the case may be, each of these players together with others selected for this historic encounter between the two nations, have a point to prove come Wednesday. It is for that reason that the friendly match will in all likelihood live up to its pre-match billing.

Some few of the players called up have been absent from the national team during the past few months for reasons which range from ZIFA’s lack of funds to fly them in for matches. The reason could be, in the case of Makonese, that coaches felt he was too old to be called for national duty and coaches preferred to give youngsters a chance, just like the reason given by former coach Sunday Chidzambwa during the friendly match against Bafana Bafana on March 27 early this year. Makonese has been thrown a life-line having been in such irresistible form for his club Orlando Pirates of South Africa in the last quarter of the SA season.

Such was Makonese’s form that he played in every one of the last 15 matches of his club, and was clearly one of Pirates’ best players in more than 10 matches played towards the end of last season. Thank goodness that with Mapeza a player’s current form, rather than age matters when it comes to national team selection. World Cup defending champions Italy, and even Brazil or Germany select players based on current form, and not necessarily age. Fabio Cannavaro will be turning 37 on the 13th September 2010, yet he will be leading his country into this year’s World Cup finals. In 2006, he led Italy to the World Cup title at nearly 33.

Makonese is only 33 and is by far the best central defender the country has, judging on current form. Ask the Kaizer Chiefs talisman Knowledge Musona and he will tell you that Makonese is probably the fastest defender in South Africa today, and all this, at 33. In the two Soweto derbies, Musona was completely outplayed and out-marked by Makonese. The Brazil match gives the defender an opportunity to prove to all and sundry that he can be the rock on which the Warriors can build their success story in the upcoming 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, set to commence after September 2010.

Another player who will welcome the Brazil match as a golden chance to showcase his ability as a first choice Warriors’ striker is the red-hot striker Nyasha Mushekwi. The Mamelodi Sundowns-bound striker has been a consistent goal scorer for his current club CAPS United and the Warriors in various competitions. Mushekwi has earned himself nickname ‘New Mr. Goals’ for his goal per game record, whether it is in the local premier league, CAF Conferedrations Cup with CAPS, COSAFA Finals or CHAN competition with the Warriors. He is clearly Zimbabwe’s current hottest property and he makes it easy for those who bat, to predict with ease of success that he will score in his next game.

If Zimbabwe is to score against Brazil, Mushekwi is Zimbabwe’s greatest hope for goals. These days Mushekwi has developed the knack to score goals by any part of his body. That’s how much the striker understands his purpose on the field of play. He is a dream player on any coach’s team sheet. His eye for goal tells me that on Thursday morning, newspapers will be awash with a similar headline, reading something like this, “Mushekwi does it again for the Warriors”.

Mushekwi’s record can speak for itself. He has scored in 5 of the last 6 international matches for CAPS in the Confederations Cup. When Zimbabwe played in the COSAFA Finals in November 2009, Mushekwi played only two matches, the opening game in which he lasted less than 15 minutes due to injury, and the Cup final where he scored 2 goals in Zimbabwe’s triumph over Zambia at Rufaro Stadium. In Zimbabwe’s CHAN success so far, Mushekwi has scored in all 3 matches played and won by his country. That’s a prolific goal scoring record by any standards. And, he is the reigning Golden boot winner in Zimbabwe. Brazil-you better watch out!

Vusa Nyoni and Musa Mguni will also feel that the Brazil match will finally help them make a stronger case than before, that they have been unfairly overlooked by national team coaches over the past years. Musa Mguni in particular, has expressed his desire to be given a chance to prove that he can be the Warriors’ goal scoring machine if given a chance. Those who feel Mguni deserves a chance just like Benjani and others have had in the past, have pointed to his goal scoring record during his stint with his former Cypriot Club Omonia Nicosia, the newly crowned Cypriot champions. The gangly striker, who currently plays for Metarlugh Donetsky in Ukraine top flight league, has never been given a fair chance by coaches even when he was in top form in Cyprus. His then team mate at Omonia Noel Kaseke would sometimes be called up for national duty while Mguni prayed for his chance to arrive one day. Perhaps, Mguni’s chance has arrived, and it has come bigger than his wildest dreams, against the best World ranked team.

While Vusa Nyoni received calls from time to time under former coach Charles Mhlauri, he was not so fortunate in the past year and some months. Nyoni plays for Cercle Brugge in Belgium, a team for whom Honour Gombami also turns out. Belgium is also home to the on-fire St Truiden’s Zimbabwean central midfielder Cephas Chimedza. Nyoni has a cultured left foot, and is known for his role as an attacking left-sided midfielder. However there has been a change of circumstances at his current Belgian club, and he has of late been utilized as a left back. Reports from Belgium indicate that Nyoni has done well in his new role at his club and has helped Cercle finish in the top ten in the league. On current form Mapeza is expected to give Nyoni a chance to prove what he can offer the Warriors in that role.

For the rest of the Warriors team and its coaching department, the epic battle against the Samba Boys will help kick-start preparations for the Nations Cup 2012 qualifiers in Equatorial Guinea. While it will be unfair and difficult to use the upcoming friendly match to gauge how far the Warriors will go in the qualifiers, the match will help the coaches try out some combinations in the critical defence, midfield and strike force. Mapeza employs a completely different system to that used by Chidzambwa. The young coach is seen as an attack-minded gaffer, and it will be interesting how his players will respond to the Samba test under the natural and uniquely aggressive type of play for which the Warriors are known.

It must be mentioned that Zimbabwe’s natural type of play is not ultra defensive as people have come to associate with the Sunday Chidzambwa preferred system. There is no space here to expand on this debate, but the natural Zimbabwean style of play is far different from what we have come to associate with our beloved Warriors. Brazil will certainly help bring out the Warriors’ natural style of play.

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