|It’s redemption time|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 12:00|
WARRIORS’ coach, Rahman Gumbo, believes his charges have put behind their horror week and are ready to kick-start their 2014 World Cup qualifying show when they date Mozambique in a Group G encounter at the Estadio do Zimpeto here tomorrow afternoon.
Gumbo and his men finally flew into the Mozambican capital yesterday after finding themselves stranded at the Harare International Airport on Thursday afternoon as cash-strapped Zifa battled to secure funding for the air tickets.
The Warriors’ nightmarish week had started with their 1-0 defeat by Guinea in their opening World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium last Sunday.
They then found themselves locked out of the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday forcing them to abort their last training session at home.
As if that was not enough trouble, they were briefly locked out of their hotel because of non-payment with the hotel authorities threatening to withhold the players’ passports until a guarantee of the payment had been done.
It had to take the intervention of Zifa president Cuthbert Dube to bail the association out and, as he has often done, the Harare business executive offered title deeds of his property in Glen Lorne as surety.
Despite all the mayhem that rocked their camp, the Warriors appeared in high spirits as they arrived in Maputo for a battle that will define their bid for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
For, if the Warriors lose again tomorrow, that will virtually end their hopes of advancing to the second and final round of qualifiers.
This is because only the group winners proceed to the second round of the qualifiers and perennial campaigners Egypt, who travel to Conakry for a date with Guinea, top the standings following their fine 2-0 home win over Mozambique in Alexandria.
But a defiant Gumbo reckoned that the Warriors could find their rhythm tomorrow, away from their demanding fans, and said the mood among his charges had given them all the confidence that they could finally turn on the corner and stop their winless streak from stretching to four games.
Gumbo, eager to make up for the time lost in Harare, immediately arranged a practice session at the home ground of Mozambican top-flight side Costa Do Sol where his assistant, David Mandigora, was coaching until the end of last year.
The Warriors coach emerged from that workout bullish that his players were ready to overcome the Black Mambas’ hurdle and finally kick-start their Group G campaign.
Gumbo said he was expecting an open game against the hosts, which he reckoned would suit their needs.
“At least we had a good run around and managed to loosen up after failing to train yesterday.
“I like the mood that these boys are in and I think they are focused on the game and they know what is required from them,’’ Gumbo said.
The FC Platinum coach also felt that playing away from home would mean less pressure on his charges and he expects them to make very few, if any, mistakes this time around.
“They are not under pressure unlike last weekend at home. Even though they are relaxed they are still very serious about the game.
“Looking at the way we worked out I think they have put behind all the problems they faced and we have been working on correcting our mistakes from last week and also trying to perfect our game plan.”
Gumbo is aware that neither the hosts nor the visitors can afford to drop any points in the race for the sole Group G ticket and believes such a scenario suits their plot in this encounter.
“I think it should be an open game . . . they cannot afford to sit back like what Guinea did for most of the time last weekend because they are also under pressure to get the three points and that should suit us because we are going for an attacking game.
“I also think with less pressure from he crowd these guys will be patient and will not hurry their efforts.
“But, of course, we also have to quickly get used to the humidity here. It is not that very hot but it is humid.”
With Gumbo having retained the core of the team that fell to Guinea, talismanic forward Knowledge Musona and Dynamos hitman Takesure Chinyama will once again front the line of attack with an entire nation back home praying that they find their range this time.
Chinyama is hugely popular with the Mozambicans as memories of how he tore the Liga Muculmana defence in a 2-2 Champions League cause for Dynamos are still fresh in their minds.
Despite having lost to Guinea, the Warriors start as slim favourites on the basis of a better Fifa ranking than the Mambas.
Assistant coach Mandigora has also reckoned that the Warriors could also have an edge “because our players are much quicker than the Mozambicans’’.
The Mambas are a combination of youth and experience with their most caped player being their 35 year-old skipper Dario Monteiro, who plies his trade with Bahia in Brazil.
Another veteran Tico Tico, who is now 38 years old and plays for local club Desportivo de Maputo, is also expected to inspire the hosts as should midfielder Simao who plays for Panathinaikos in Greece and defenders Mano (ENPPI, Egypt) and Paito of FC Vaslui in Romania.
This generation of Warriors could, however, evoke the spirit of the 1980 squad which inflicted what remains the biggest defeat suffered by Mozambique when the late duo of Onias Musana and Shacky Tauro led Zimbabwe to a 6-0 demolition of the Mambas at Rufaro on April 19.
Mandigora, who was later voted the 1980 Soccer Star of the Year, was in that side that was under the guidance of John Rugg with Sunday Marimo now Chidzambwa the captain.
That game marked Zimbabwe’s return to the international fold after years of colonial rule had meant isolation from the Fifa family and 32 years on the Warriors will be looking at inflicting another heartbreaking defeat on the Mozambicans — this time in Maputo.