WHEN Sunday Chidzambwa faced the international media on the eve of the Warriors’ decisive game against DRC, he cast a confident look, declaring his charges were primed to rescue an African Cup of Nations football finals campaign that had gone off the rails in their opening two games.
But as the 67-year-old coach retuned to the same Press conference room at 30 June Stadium here on Sunday night, and with the army of journalists having grown even bigger, he was a man whose mind appeared to have been caught between wandering away from events in the packed auditorium and listening to the questions aimed at him.
The Warriors coach seemed to be still trapped in the search for answers on the horror that had unfolded before his eyes moments before.
Chidzambwa could have been forgiven for believing that what he had just seen in the 90 minutes of a Congolese blitz powered by goals from Total Man of the Match, Cedrick Bakambu, with a brace, Jonathan Bolingi and Middlesborough striker Britt Assombalonga, was but just a bad dream from which he would wake up.
As pathetic a performance as they come by Zimbabwe had seen the Congolese put the icing on their Independence Day celebrations with a 4-0 demolition job on the Warriors. It also sent the Warriors crashing out of the tournament in the worst and most painful fashion since Chidzambwa guided Peter Ndlovu and his class of 2004 on their maiden Nations Cup sojourn in Tunisia.
Chidzambwa described it a “bad day in the office by every department of the team’’ and took full responsibility for the loss on Sunday night.
The Warriors coach also refused to blame injuries to any of his key players insisting that each of the 23 men he had brought with him to Egypt “was good enough to do duty in the Nations Cup’’.
Chidzambwa’s men are now without a win in six high profile internationals since a bunch of home-based Zambians ended their COSAFA Cup dominance.
Their exit from the COSAFA Cup was then followed by draws against Nigeria and Tanzania in Asaba and Cairo in the Nations Cup warm-up games.
Chidzambwa also refused to make third choice goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze the Fall Guy after the Baroka man made costly howlers that gifted the Congolese with three of their goals.
“We just had a very bad day in office. We didn’t play well in all the departments. We had to change the goalkeeper during warm-up because our first choice got injured but that is no excuse at all.
“We played badly, we conceded easy goals and it was a bad performance on our part in every department and I think we need to go home, rewind our performances and get the way forward,’’ Chidzambwa said.
The veteran coach also blamed a wrong approach to the game by his team whom he felt were complacent and only woke up to find themselves chasing the game as early as the fourth minute.
“We conceded a very early goal and we conceded very easy goals and from then on we were chasing the game and we could not come back . . . It was a bad performance and I take the blame.
“I think the element of complacency was there. The way we started the game was slow and we had to chase the game during the entire 90 minutes and we couldn’t come back’’. That spoke of the need to review this poor show and find solutions was also probably the biggest hint by Chidzambwa that he is not about to throw in the towel on the basis of the Cairo disaster.
“I think in the near future we need to approach the game differently. I wouldn’t also want to say we lost because some players were missing through injuries, we replaced all injured players with equally good players but we just didn’t come to the party,’’ Chidzambwa said.
Injuries stalked the Warriors from Day One of their group games with Tafadzwa Kutinyu’s tournament ending before he kicked a ball.
Fresh casualties were to emerge from every match with the pair of Edmore Sibanda and Nyasha Mushekwi the injury victims in the group opener against Egypt.
Influential midfielder Marvelous Nakamba was to follow in the casualty bay as did Devine Lunga, Alec Mudimu and George Chigova’s hamstring knocking him out of the match against the DRC during warm-up.
In contrast the Congolese grabbed Chipezeze’s blunder with both hands and seized the initiative for the entire game.
Double scorer Bakambu also said their coach Florent Ibenge had advised them at the break to go for more goals after noting that the Warriors could be taken to the slaughter on the night.
“Our objective was to score lots of goals and the coach also told us to go for more after we scored the first two,’’ Bakambu said.
The DRC are now hoping that goal difference could help them squeeze through as one of the best four third-place finishers.
Yet with just a 1-0 win the Warriors could have finished group runners up after Mahomed Salah and his Pharaohs appeared to do them a huge favour by beating Uganda 2-0 on the same night at Cairo International Stadium.