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Inside Sport: World Cup is out of our league, let’s focus on Afcon

with MICHAEL KARIATI

The World Cup caravan is moving from Russia to Qatar and once again Zimbabwe’s Warriors will not be part of the global gathering.

The double blow that Ghana’s Black Stars hit on Zimbabwe not only sent the Warriors to the canvas but also signalled the end of the World Cup road for the Zimbabwean team.

The reality, however, tells us that it was too ambitious for Zimbabweans to believe that their Warriors could qualify for a tournament where in the first place they did not belong to.

The World Cup is for the Big Boys of world football and Zimbabwe is not among the Big Boys but to their credit, they are also not among the Small Boys of the global game either.

The Warriors are among those teams who are not too good but are respected while the small teams are the likes of San Marino, Liechtenstein, the Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius, and others who receive a battering whenever they play.

The Warriors earned their respect through qualification for Afcon five times in 2004, 2006, 2017, 2019 and 2021, when others are still dreaming of making the continental rendezvous for the first time.

Afcon is exactly where the Warriors rightly belong and right now Zimbabweans should forget about their disastrous World Cup campaign and concentrate more on Afcon 2021 and what the future holds.

The truth is that what happened has happened and football followers cannot reverse the fact that Zimbabwe lost twice to Ghana, once to Ethiopia, and drew with an experimental South African side.

As Zimbabweans do their 2022 World Cup post-mortem, they should not lose sight of the fact that the Warriors have a mission to accomplish: That is to reach the second round of Afcon for the first time.

Warriors coach Norman Mapeza has come out in the open that he is taking this time to start building or preparing his team for these 2021 continental finals to be held in Cameroon in January.

He wants to use the remaining two World Cup matches to build a team that will be respected when it competes against the best 24 teams Africa has to offer.

Sadly, though, Mapeza himself is also the subject of debate and Zifa’s biggest decision would be whether to let him stay on for the Afcon finals or bring in somebody new to handle the Zimbabwean team.

The opinion is divided over Mapeza’s ability and the former Warriors captain seems to have lost a lot of friends and the pendulum also seems to be shifting heavily towards the doubters.

Making Zifa’s coaching decision even difficult is the events of late. Zifa do not know whom to trust this time around following the path that Mapeza — a local coach — took the Warriors through, and Zdravko Logarusic — a foreigner — performed during his unforgettable reign.

Mapeza or no Mapeza, whoever, the coach would be, his most crucial decision would be whether to rely on the same old players who succeeded in the past but are failing to deliver this time around or try fresh inspiration.

There is general belief that now is the time to let go the likes of captain Knowledge Musona, Onismor Bhasera, Khama Billiat, Kuda Mahachi, Washington Arubi and Thabani Kamusoko as they have outlived their usefulness.

Others are also of the opinion that there is no need to bring in the likes of Marvelous Nakamba from England because the midfielder has failed — through his performance — to inspire the Warriors or to at least show that he plays in the EPL.

The feeling is that this is the time to usher in a new generation of Warriors built around youngsters like Martin Mapisa of Zamora in Spain, Jordan Zemura of Bournemouth in England, and Prince Dube of Azam in Tanzania.

The question, however, is; Does that change has to be now or after the 2021 Afcon finals?

Observers, however, are of the opinion that although the Warriors disappointed, it would be fair to give the current squad a chance for their last dance with Afcon as a thank you for qualifying and then start rebuilding thereafter.

After Afcon 2021, Zimbabwe would not need immediate results but building a team that will be remembered in the manner it plays and wins —  and not one that brings shame to the country.

  • For your comments, views, and suggestions, mkariati@gmail.com or WhatsApp on 0773 266 779.

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