Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
WARRIORS caretaker coach Joey Antipas’ half-time message kept ringing in his charges’ ears even when they looked dead and buried at the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday.
The Warriors were facing an embarrassing exit in the 2022 FIFA World Cup preliminary round qualifiers at the hands of the global lightweights Somalia as time ticked away.
After one of the team’s poorest performances, on home soil, the Warriors never looked like finding the Midas Touch they needed to book their place in the group stages of the tournament.
Now, and again, they ran into the Somali defensive wall, with their preference to send in aerial balls into the box, easily being dealt with by the tall defenders.
And, even more baffling, was the decision by the coaches to keep five men in defence, for the entire first half, where they were all marking one striker as the visitors chose to sit back and hit on the counter.
One would have expected a tweek of the formation very early but it didn’t come.
With the score line tied at 1-1, and Somalia having the advantage after having beaten the Warriors in the reverse tie 1-0, it all looked gloomy for Zimbabwe.
But, the players kept remembering what Antipas had told them in the dressing room at the break.
The Chicken Inn gaffer reminded captain Alec Mudimu, Devine Lunga, Marshall Munetsi and Ovidy Karuru of the same instructions just after Somalia had scored the equaliser which threatened to switch off the hosts.
“He asked us to keep on probing. Obviously, the match was tight due to the fact that we had lost the first leg in Djibouti,’’ said Mudimu.
“The message was very strong and it kept on ringing and we kept on reminding each other what the coach had told us at half-time.
“We had to die for that result and, fortunately, it came through.’’
Antipas said he never panicked even when it looked likely his side would be eliminated.
“I had told the guys at half-time that they needed to keep on pressing the opponents and force them to commit errors,’’ he said.
“I think they did just that and I am happy with the result.
“It was indeed very close. We were almost out of the World Cup contention until we suddenly erupted towards the end of it.
“I am glad we managed to win the game at the end and wrap up qualification for the group stages.”