Inside Sport: with MICHAEL KARIATI
When the draw for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers was conducted at the Nile Ritz Hotel in Cairo on January 21, 2020, Zimbabweans from all over the country celebrated as if the Warriors had won the World Cup itself.
The fans were unanimous in their agreement that this was the easiest World Cup draw in their football history after their team was placed in Group G alongside Ghana, Ethiopia, and South Africa – a group they felt was a walkover.
Nineteen months down the line they have been made to eat humble pie as the truth has come out that their Warriors are not as good as they think they are and that their so-called international stars are just ordinary players warming up benches abroad.
The situation has been blurred further by a Football Association that does not seem to have a clue as to what exactly is required to make an ordinary national team succeed at the highest level.
How can a serious football association appoint a coach on a three-month contract, a coach whose contract expires a month or so before a big competition like the Africa Cup of Nations finals?
Does this mean that Zifa will sit down again to appoint another coach to handle the Warriors at Afcon 2021?
That aside. While it is good to still dream of Qatar 2022, the truth is that the Warriors look down and out of the road, blown away after only three games and long before the real competition for places at the finals has begun.
Although this impending exit is a surprise to some, the truth is that Zimbabweans expect too much or dream too big of this ordinary Warriors outfit and in the end, end up disappointed.
Let us be honest, the Warriors are not as good or as strong as their fans would want them to be and to avoid inviting disappointment, their followers should always be modest and realistic in their expectations.
At the moment, a World Cup berth is not theirs for the taking and only until when the team is good enough to reach the second round of the Africa Cup of Nations finals should their followers start dreaming of the global festival.
The current team does not have a game-changer, somebody like Peter Ndlovu, who in a few minutes could turn around a game from close to defeat into victory.
Zimbabwe does not have a playmaker, somebody like Ronald Sibanda who could open up defences by spraying passes and in the process create chances for the strikers.
Fine, some might say, Zimbabwe has Marvelous Nakamba at English Premier League side Aston Villa but the midfield enforcer’s influence or presence in the Warriors has never been felt in the manner Norman Mapeza did during his time at Turkish giants Galatasaray.
Nakamba’s presence has also not been felt in the same manner Esrom Nyandoro took control of that same midfield anchorman’s role.
Apart from Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona and to some extent Tendayi Darikwa, Zimbabwe’s foreign-based players have not really been able to show why they are playing abroad when putting on that Warriors jersey.
By the way, where is Tino Kadewere?
In fact, the older generation did far much better and built a name for the Warriors in Africa, a name that the new crop of Warriors is helping to destroy.
At one time the Warriors were ninth in Africa and 39th in the world and now they are 113th in the world and 28th in Africa.
The old generation that went to the 2004 and 2006 Africa Cup of Nations picked up a win and three points but the new crop of players came back with only one point from the 2017 and 2019 Afcon finals.
On that premise, Zimbabweans should not hope or believe too much or place too much faith in this new crop of Warriors because as things stand right now, they are unlikely to do more than what they have already done.
The best they can do is to qualify for the Afcon finals and nothing else.
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