Twenty One Out of Twenty Four

By Robson Sharuko

Cairo — The Zimbabwe Warriors finished 21st, out of 24 teams, and suffered the worst single defeat at the 2019 AFCON finals, after a four-goal battering at the hands of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a tournament that represented a giant step backwards for the team.

Only Burundi and Tanzania, who left this tournament goalless and pointless, and Namibia who looked very lightweight in such great company, fared worse than the Warriors on the final table.

The Warriors, who also only picked a point in finishing bottom at the 2017 Nations Cup finals in Gabon, scored just a single goal in three games — for the first time since they started playing at this level of the game — with Khama Billiat’s strike against Uganda the only time they breached the opposition defence.

In sharp contrast, they scored two goals, in the first half of the opening game against Algeria in Gabon two years ago, with Kuda Mahachi and Nyasha Mushekwi scoring for them, while they also added a further two goals in a losing cause in the final game against Tunisia.

To put their impotency, in this tournament, into context, Peter Ndlovu, who led the Warriors at their first AFCON finals in Tunisia 15 years ago, scored more goals (two) in one match against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, who were then the defending champions.

Maybe, we should have read the signs a long time ago but, blinded by passion in our moments of triumph when these Warriors easily won their qualifying group with a two-point cushion over the DRC, we didn’t pick out the frailty of a team whose eight, of its nine goals, had been scored by just two men. Knowledge Musona had weighed in with five goals while Billiat scored three with the other goal coming from fullback Ronald Pfumbidzai.

The key questions that should have been asked back then were:

What if Musona, whose confidence has been battered by a nightmarish season in Belgium, where he experienced a difficult initiation at Anderlecht and the club where he was loaned to Lokeren ended up being relegated, lost his form at the AFCON finals?

Who would step in to score goals for the Warriors, in the event that happened, given that the other forwards — who were not Billiat — had so far failed to make any impression in the qualifiers against teams which were slightly inferior, in quality, to what they would come up against here?

What if the opposition, given that the technical analysis of the opposition goes a notch higher when it comes to the AFCON finals with a lot of time and effort invested in studying the opposition’s biggest threats and how to stop them, found a way to stop Musona, who would step into his big shoes?

Why was there such an over reliance, on the supply of goals, on Musona, who became the first Warriors skipper to score an AFCON hat-trick, en-route to getting five in the qualifying campaign, and Billiat, who scored three, when there were other forwards in the team?

And, as fate would cruelly rule, Musona had probably his most disappointing adventure, on Warriors duty, missing a golden chance to win the match for his team by crashing his effort against the bar.

Source : The Herald

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