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Date: 21 November 2017

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Warriors, what worked and what didn't

[Posted 14 Oct 2011]
[By Beezsports Editor]
Warriors, what worked and what didn"t

After all has been said and done following the end of the Africa Cup of Nations 2012 qualifiers and Zimbabwe Warriors' exit, what is left is for the nation to assess what worked and what did not work in the management of the Warriors, with the view of planning ahead. 

It may be helpful to breakdown this analysis into simpler chunks before any recommendations for improvement can be made. This analysis will be broken down into the Warriors' technical management, team welfare and planning and preparations for major tournaments.

Technical Team

When the team started the Afcon campaign, ZIFA created an impression that Norman Mapeza was to be given the reigns for the entire Group A qualifiers. The former Warriors captain started off the campaign fairly well, picking up a point away in Liberia where neither of the teams in the group could pick a point against a full strength Lone Star team. Cape Verde fell to the Liberians, and Mali almost lost to an understrength Lone Star team, only equalising at death.

The result in Monrovia should have encouraged the ZIFA board to put their trust in a home-grown coach, who had proved his worth by even winning the league at home with Monomotapa in 2008. The attempts by some of the board members to play a tribal card, which saw futile attempts to rope in an unknown entity by the name of Tom Saintfeit, coupled with the unprecedented imposition of a Madinda Ndlovu who has not proved much of his abilities as a coach, saw the Warriors' campaign go off the rails.

When sanity prevailed and Zifa President Cuthbert Dube was given all the powers by the board to make a unilateral appointment, the former Buymore Chairman responded to the distress call by the nation and handed the reigns of the Warriors back to fan-favourite Mapeza.

Mapeza responded by rebuilding the confidence of the Warriors and hauled the team back to contention for an automatic berth at the 2012 finals after posting convincing victories over Mali (2-1) and Liberia (3-0) at home.

Those who ever questioned Mapeza's ability as a coach might have been forced to eat a humble pie in the light of the results he achieved away from home and at home when he was fully in charge.  Mapeza, apart from the draw in Liberia, narrowly lost 0-1 to Mali, a result which was followed by two successive victories over Mali and Liberia.

Zifa was back at it again on the trip to Cape Verde and poor financial planning saw the team go into battle in Praia with the worst form of preparations ever witnessed by any national team on the continent. The result was that Zimbabwe snatched defeat from the jaws of a possible victory and qualification for Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Verdict: Mapeza has proved his ability as a coach, and with better support from Zifa, he can be trusted to plot the downfall of Guinea and Egypt at home in the Brazil 2014 Fifa World Cup qualifiers. Zifa, however, could make better use of Techinical Adviser, Mr. Pagels, given his passion for local football. As technical advisor, the German national could assist Mapeza. Mapeza himself should consider getting Rahman Gumbo as his assistant, or he can choose to stick with Joey Antipas.

Warriors Team Welfare and preparation for crucial matches

Planning for the World Cup qualifiers and the 2013 Nations Cup qualifiers should begin now. Sports Minister David Coltart's advice for planning ahead should be heeded. Zifa should begin engaging the government for accommodation, airfare costs and payment of the players’ stipends and winning bonuses.

Our major downfall in the past campaign was poor planning by Zifa. The national mother body acted like amateurs and often relied on its president to come to its rescue, or tried to seek government intervention at the last minute, like it was the case with the trip to Cape Verde, when Zifa approached the government with begging bowls during the week when the team was supposed to have been camping.

Zifa should have identified the trip to Cape Verde as the most crucial away match for the Warriors, especially following the first victory over Mali in June, and planning should have been put in place to ensure that a clear training programme was in place for the team before the trip to Praia.  

Norman Mapeza and his assistant Antipas had come up with a stop gap measure to fine-tune the Warriors ahead of crucial matches by playing Motor Action in friendly matches. There is no reason why such opportunities of playing different clubs in Harare or Bulawayo should not be explored, in between well planned friendly matches against fairly ranked neighbours such as Zambia, Angola, South Africa, Malawi or even Botswana.

Securing friendly matches with big nations in Africa such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Egypt has been difficult due to financial implications and other factors. The Brazil 2014 World Cup draw provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to get friendly matches with some top African countries at little or no cost at all. Neighbours Zambia, Malawi or COSAFA fellows Angola have been placed in groups with some very interesting African giants and the Warriors can take advantage of that.

For example, Zambia has been grouped together with Ghana in Group D. Surely the Black Stars will need a feel of a Southern Africa opposition, and in the entire region there is no other team that plays a type of soccer similar to Chipolopolo than the Warriors. ZIFA can approach the Ghana Football Association and propose a friendly match, and state the obvious benefits of playing the Warriors ahead of a clash with Zambia. Zimbabwe will benefit from playing a West African team in preparation for their matches against Guinea in Group G.

Groups F and J present further opportunities for Zimbabwe to secure friendly matches in 2012. Malawi is in Group F together with Nigeria, and the Super Eagles will require a relevant friendly match to fine tune ahead of their clash with Malawi, and Zimbabwe is an attractive option. The same applies to Group J seeds Senegal, who may consider Zimbabwe as a potential friendly opposition ahead of their clashes with Angola in their group.   

Zimbabwe cannot wait to finalise such arrangements with the aforementioned African giants close to their clashes with our Southern Africa neighbours. The key is planning ahead of time.

Playing Material

There is little doubt in Warriors fans' minds that Mapeza assembled a team full of potential and commitment. Mapeza's era as coach has seen younger players' influence in the way the senior national team plays. Instead of a heavy reliance on the likes of Benjani Mwaruwari, Esrom Nyandoro or Zvenyika Makonese at the back, the team has a new crop of Under 23 players who have become the leading lights in the team

Knowledge Musona has grown in stature as a player, and followiwng his breaking into the ABSA Premiership and his subsequent move to the Bundesliga of Germany, he has come to be referred to as the talisman of the team. Yet the last three or so matches has revealed that Zimbabwe no longer rely on an individual player like it was during the days of Peter Ndlovu when the Flying Elephant had to be flewn in for low key matches such as the COSAFA competition. The Warriors could hardly produce a performance worth noting in the absence of their livewire.

Mapeza has introduced a concept of team work where no single player is relied upon for victory. While Musona emerged the top goal scorer in the Afcon campaign, he was by no means the most influential player in the team. Others will point at Ovidy Karuru as having taken over from Musona, while some will comment on the fairly solid defensive midfield combination that boasts of Nengomasha, Karuru himself, Willard Katsande and Khama Billiart. 

Even without Musona, the team scored 5 goals in two matches, in a 2-0 win over Zambia and a 3-0 demolition of Liberia at home. The point of the matter is, the Warriors have become a better playing unit than in the past years, and credit should go to the coach. He won the championship with Monomotapa in 2008 on the bedrock of team efforts rather than simply team brilliance.

Having said the above, is Mapeza's Warriors a perfect team yet? Well the answer is almost obvious. They are far away from being perfect. There is need to strengthen each department and improving the team's goal scoring ability in key matches. The transition from defence to attack via midfield still needs to be worked on.

Creativity from the midfield and the emregence of a deadly striking combination are some of the things that Mapeza will need more practice matches to work on. The Mushekwi/Musona combination, or alternatively Musona/Sadomba combination has neither proved satisfactory through out the Afcon campaign.

The key to the problems identified above is to have more practice matches and to audition more players dotted around Europe and South Africa for the roles which appear problematic at the moment.

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