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Date: 24 April 2019

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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Mapeza's Warriors dilemma

[Posted 31 Jul 2010]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Norman Mapeza, Warriors coach during his days as Warriors captain

Zimbabwe's stand-in coach Norman  Mapeza faces a good headache in selecting the eighteen or so players he will need for the opening fixture of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Liberia away in Monrovia.

Mapeza has a challenge particularly in selecting the starting XI for all the qualifiers, beginning with the Liberia game.

The former Galatasaray defender and Warriors captain's dilemma is caused by a good problem, namely that Zimbabwe has plenty of players with similar style of play, especially in midfield and strike force. This challenge is compounded by the fact that some of the regulars during the failed 2010 campaign are either in an indifferent form, or struggling to command regular places in their clubs. At the same time, there are new stars emerging who deserve a chance, while there are some who deserved a chance in the last campaign, but were not been accorded enough opportunity to prove what they could offer.

Former Warriors mentor Valinhos, used players who are unlikely to find their way back into the team due to poor form.

Players such as veteran midfielder Harlington Shereni of French Ligue 2 side FC Nantes will not play a part in the qualifiers following his retirement from international football in October 2008. Another veteran, striker Gilbert Mushangazhike had an indifferent season after moving to Black Aces last season and it will be a joke if he can even be considered for a Warriors place.

USA-based Joseph Ngwenya, who played a wide midfield role in Valinhos' team in the last campaign is slowly getting back into his old form after spending time on the side-lines following his release by Turkish club Antalayspor after the 2008/2009 season. He has been showing glimpses of his old form in the MLS for Houston Dynamo whom he recently re-joined. Ngwenya will have to compete with Zimbabwe's emerging stars to win a midfield place in Mapeza's team.

Mapeza's good problem at the moment is that most of his stars in South Africa, USA and Europe demonstrated through their form in the past two seasons that they deserve to be given a chance in the Warriors team. The midfield and attack in particular will prove to have stiff competition.

Zimbabwe is blessed with many good holding midfielders to choose from. Cephas Chimedza of St Truiden in Belgium was probably the best performing Warriors star in Europe. He had such an outstanding season in the Jupiler league that the Dutch giants Feyenord wanted to sign him in May, but unfortunately the talented midfielder failed a medical, but he hopes that when he recovers the Dutch team will take him.

In that holding midfield role, Mapeza will have options in veteran Tinashe Nengomasha who recently moved to Qatar. The General has improved his ball distribution and remains such a workhorse in midfield who always gives 100% effort when selected.

To add to Mapeza's dilemma, there is still another veteran anchor-man, Esrom Nyandoro of Mamelodi Sundowns to think of. Though Yellow man might have slowed down a bit, he is a veteran of many battles, and the Warriors need his experience.

The competition for the midfield strongman role becomes complex when one throws into the equation Lionel Mtizwa now with Sundowns in SA and Justice Majabvi of LASK Linz of Austria.  Both midfielders were in great form last season.

Real competition for the holding role will be between Nengomasha and Chimedza. It is difficult to see Mapeza leaving out any of the two. Chimedza's advantage is that he provides Mapeza with so much options in midfield. The former CAPS star can easily partner Nengomasha in the heart of midfield and he is a great passer of the ball. Having the General and the former Zimbabwe footballer of the year will give Mapeza peace in midfield.

The wide or attacking midfield roles also provide the Warriors' coach with good options. Ovidy Karuru of French side US Boulogne is a midfield all-rounder,who is comfortable attacking either from the right, left or centre of the midfield. Mapeza is known to be a great admirer of the youngster and if he remains in form, then he will be part of the 2012 campaign.

Quincy Antipas of HB Koge of Denmark has been utilised as a midfielder before (in the Brazil friendly), even though he plays as a striker for his club. He will have to contest the right-sided midfield role with Oscar Machapa of Moroka Swallows, Joseph Ngwenya or Karuru. 

One of the brightest hopes of Zimbabwean football at the moment, Knowledge Musona of Kaizer Chiefs, is at home playing as a striker, wide attacking midfielder, or a midfielder who attacks from the centre.

Mapeza also has three other good attacking midfielders to consider. Tafadzwa Rusike of Ajax Cape Town is such a bright prospect for a place on the left channel of midfield. Vusa Nyoni of Cercle Brugge in Belgium is another option on the left channel. Nyoni can also play at left back. 

Even though little is written about former footballer of the year Clement Matawu of Podbeskidzie Bielsko-Biała of Poland's First division, the player remains the same agile midfielder with an incredible eye for goal.  Last season, Matawu made more than 24 appearances for his Polish club, scoring five goals, and remains a good option on the right-channel of midfield.

The strike force presents even more confusing options for the Warriors technical team. Based on current form, choosing two or three strikers for the 2012 campaign will prove a real challenge. Most of the potential Warriors' strikers were in great form last season, save for captain Benjamin Mwaruwari whose season was affected by injuries.

Benjani though, proved in the Brazil friendly on 2 June that he remains a good addition to the Warriors squad. What coaches need to realise though is that relying on Benjani for goals is probably a failure to understand the contribution that the player can make to the entire team. The former Manchester City striker, is more of a team player than a goal-getter. Mapeza may need to consider giving him a different role in the team.

Benjani can be useful for the team when playing away from home. He puts pressure on defenders to an extent that they cannot build an attack from defence in his presence. Secondly, the Warriors' captain can be re-assigned a midfield role like what his former Portsmouth coach Harry Redknapp often did with the player at Fratton Park during the 2007/2008 season.

Other strikers who have been doing well for the last season include the versatile Knowledge Musona, who top-scored with 5 goals for Chiefs last season. Musona was crowned Rookie of the year on Thursday for his outstanding display in the South African PSL last season.

Still in South Africa, Kingston Nkatha appears to have rediscovered the kind of form that made him a feared striker in the Zim PSL a few seasons ago.

Mamelodi Sundowns' newboy Nyasha Mushekwi is probably one Zimbabwean striker who has reminded the country of Shacky 'Mr. Goals' Tauro. The player has been outstanding for Zimbabwe in the CHAN qualifiers and in CAPS' CAF Confederation Cup campaign. If there is any player who has proved that he can score goals anyway he finds himself competing, then it has to be Mushekwi.

Mushekwi proved his goal-scoring ability in the local league where he won the Golden Boot award last season, and was unlucky not to be voted as footballer of the season. He has been the leading goal-scorer in both the CAF competitions that he participated in. Now, if a player proves himself in international competitions, then he is the real deal. It is even very surprising that Mapeza chose to keep the new 'Mr. Goals' on the bench in the friendly tie against Brazil. But again, this explains the dilemma Mapeza faces.

Another forward who deserves a fair chance in the Warriors' team is Terrence Mandaza, who broke the goal-scoring records in Botswana by hitting home 43 goals last season. He emerged as both the Golden Boot winner and the overral Footballer of the Season in Botswana.

Locals have been sceptical about the quality of the league from across Zimbabwe's Western border. Yet the performances of Gaborone FC in the Champions League and the Zebras shock 1-0 victory over Tunisia appear to be giving us a different story about the quality of Botswana football.

Mandaza deserves to be given a chance to prove himself in Warriors' colours. Mapeza and Warriors supporters will pray that Terror hits the ground running for Platinum Stars when the new season commences.

Another striking option is Takesure Chinyama, who performed consistently for Legia Warsaw in Poland during the 2007/2008 season where he scored 15 goals and 2008/2009 season when he won the top goal scorer award. His appearances last sesason were curtailed by injuries to only seven games, yielding only two goals. Chinyama has been showing great scoring form during Legia's pre-season friendly matches in France.

From the USA, there have been calls to give Mkhokheli Dube of New England Revolution a chance in the Warriors. Similar calls have been made for Musa Mguni who is now playing in Ukraine and big former CAPS striker Mike Temwanjira of FC Vaslui in Romania.

In defence, Mapeza is fortunate that his foreign based players had hit top form by end of last season. Towering defence pillars Zvenyika Makonese of Orlando Pirates and Dickson Choto of Legia Warsaw finished the season on a high note for their respective clubs. Thomas Sweswe and Zhaimu Jambo of Chiefs, Noel Kaseke who plays more of a defensive midfield role for his Cypriot team Omonia Nicosia and Method Mwanjali now with Sundowns in SA also did well for their clubs last season. 

The goalkeeping position will be contested by Edmore Sibanda of CAPS, Bidvest Wits returnee Energy Murambadoro and Platinum Stars' Tapuwa Kapini.

What Mapeza needs to determine who to choose from all these players who deserve a chance to prove themselves, are friendly matches. It is for that reason that ZIFA needs to move fast to secure friendly matches to allow the coach to select the best players and establish the necessary combinations in the team.  



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