BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The writing was on the wall from the onset. Zimbabwe began their Qatar World Cup in the worst possible manner in the first stage after a disgraceful 1-0 defeat to Somalia in a match played in Djibouti in September 2019.
At the time, Somalia were ranked the third worst team in the world and ended a run of 19 successive defeats, stretching back eight years with that famous win.
The Warriors even needed an injury time goal from Khama Billiat to avoid an embarrassing exit from the qualifiers in the first round at the hands of the minnows.
It’s no surprise that the Warriors are yet to muster a single win in the group stages, having scored one goal and conceding six ahead of the final match against Ethiopia at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.
Miserably, Zimbabwe had crashed out of contention for a maiden World Cup ticket barely halfway through the group matches.
One might need a microscope to pinpoint any positives from the World Cup campaign, which marked the country’s return from the wilderness following a ban from the previous qualification process.
The Standardsport looks at some of the talking points from the Warriors’ Qatar World Cup qualification campaign.
Three coaches in one campaign
Zimbabwe have changed three coaches in this campaign, beginning with Joey Antipas, who was dumped for Croat Zdravko Logarusic, who was in charge of two World Cup qualifiers, but was replaced by the incumbent Mapeza.
Mapeza has lost all the three matches he has presided over and is increasingly becoming a doubt to take the team to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) amid reports that Zifa will appoint a substantive coach at the end of the month.
Another defeat against Ethiopia could be ominous for Mapeza.
Woeful away record
Zimbabwe have lost all the four away matches played during the qualification campaign, including defeats against nonentities Somalia and Ethiopia, as well as against Ghana and lately South Africa.
The team has also conceded six goals in the process and scored just one, a penalty scored by captain Knowledge Musona against Ghana at Cape Coast.
And having laboured to a 3-1 win at home to Somalia thanks to late goals in September 2019, the Warriors could also finish the group stages without a home win should they fail to beat Ethiopia this afternoon.
A blunt strike force
A bid to bring British-born striker Macauley Bonne has yielded no joy for Zimbabwe as the goals continue to elude the team.
Despite giving a number of forwards an opportunity, the Warriors have continued to fire blanks in this campaign, managing four goals, three of them in one match.
Forwards who have been given a chance by the three Zimbabwe coaches include Musona, Evans Rusike, Admiral Muskwe, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Clive Augusto, Khama Billiat, Tino Kadewere, Kuda Mahachi, Perfect Chikwende, David Moyo, Ishmael Wadi and lately teenage star Bill Antonio.
And the team is yet to find a dependable goalscorer ahead of the Afcon finals in a couple of months’ time.
At least 38 players have featured in this journey with very little success on the field of play and the number could grow should Mapeza decide to give other players like Jonah Fabisch, Godknows Murwira and Taimon Mvula or Donovan Bernard a run in the final game.
So far, four goalkeepers in Elvis Chipezeze, Talbert Shumba, Washington Arubi and Petros Mhari have been employed in this campaign.