‘Warriors did well to avoid defeat’

EYES ON THE BALL . . . Knowledge Musona and Onismor Bhasera go through their paces at the National Sports Stadium ahead of today’s big battle. — (Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda)

EYES ON THE BALL . . . Knowledge Musona and Onismor Bhasera go through their paces at the National Sports Stadium ahead of today’s big battle. — (Picture by Kudakwashe Hunda)

From Noel Munzabwa, in Mbabane, SWAZILAND
ZIMBABWE’S draw against Swaziland in a 2017 African Cup of Nations top of the table Group L qualifier at Somhlolo National Stadium has been described as a modest achievement on a compact pitch that does not make it easy to track or mark. Revisiting his pre-match expectations against the show, Green Mamba coach, Herbert Maruwa praised the Warriors for avoiding defeat and shifting the pressure to Swaziland ahead of the reverse fixture.

“The game was a close one and like I said before the match, Swaziland is in the group to compete and they showed it by scoring as early as the second minute. “As a team if you concede an early goal it kills your game plan you end up hurrying things by so doing you make a lot of mistakes.

“Swaziland players are very tricky customers at home they have managed a draw against even bigger opponents Nigeria (0-0), drew against Angola 2-2, 2-2 against Malawi and won 2-1 over Djibouti in their last matches.

“So Zimbabwe did very well to avoid defeat making it difficult for Swaziland in Harare Zimbabwe. “We are very stubborn at home and we need to use home advantage to get a favourable result.

“In terms of play Swaziland are dangerous going forward. And they are quick on transition, they kept our defence busy they are also comfortable on the long ball and thanks to Tatenda Mukuruva who made crucial saves,’’ Maruwa said.

He said Zimbabwe looked good in passing the ball around but ended up hitting long balls which most of our players upfront were not comfortable with.

“So for the second game in Zimbabwe both coaches are going to sort out their shortcomings and the fans will enjoy the game. It’s going to be more tactical because Zimbabwe now need a win at home and Swaziland trying maybe to get a point.

“I hope both teams get enough rest before Monday’s game and I think Zimbabwe are most affected because most of the players ply their trade in South Africa and don’t have enough rest playing maybe two games in a space of five days.

“Those playing in the Champions League there is a lot of travelling thus the recovery process is sacrificed,” said Maruwa. Dhlakama said the compact Somhlolo National Stadium made it difficult for Warriors players to track and mark resulting in conceding early.

“Somhlolo is compact and is a very difficult surface to play on. Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates lost in the King’s Cup and Bidvest Wits were eliminated in the Confederation Cup at the same ground. It is so compact and for Pasuwa to use wing play or spread formation was always going to be difficult.

“It made it so difficult to score let alone create chances. The idea was to use a simple 4-3-3 formation with clear definitive roles because our strikers were getting into each other and play became very clumsy.

“Now in the second leg the National Sports Stadium is a giant stadium with lots of space to exploit which will again be a difficult pitch for the visitors because the brilliance technical prowess of players can now be shown.

“Track mark in a compact pitch is easy but difficult in a big and wider pitch like National Sports. The coaches can now vary play from short passes to long passing, use of the wide areas, use of the second ball, zonal marking, spread formations, switch play, direct play, fast break attack, channelling play to the wide areas, channelling play to the centre, counter attack and directional minute system is now possible because of the size of the pitch,’’ Dhlakama said.

The former Young Warriors coach said today’s game will also be more of a battle of wits.

“Given the scenario that the coaches have ideas of how the opposition play it’s up to the coaches to find a way to turn the corner. “It’s great advantage for Zimbabwe to realise and work on standard situations. Most of the chances created by the Warriors were from the standard situations and even our goal was from the same.

“They (Swaziland) don’t have an explicitly reliable goalkeeper and Nhlanhla Gwebu looked vulnerable in aerial tussles and even on two occasions Costa (Nhamoinesu) used his jumping prowess to outwit him. Then again the Swazi centre-backs played too far apart and they can’t do zonal marking.

“They sweep according to the situation which to me can be a very good advantage play the ball in between them to tear them apart. Then again the weakest link was that we did not have a natural attacking midfielder for creativity in the double 18 area, a player who can adapt, eliminate, create, outfox, charge, shot and above all give us options in both attack and defence.

“The double defensive link did not give us a lot of options that is why Willard (Katsande) was now sitting with the centre-back thereby duplicating roles with the defenders.

This again forced the attackers to come deeper thus our attack became thinner hence we could not score from open play.

“The selection of players the way I saw was excellent but the deployment just need to be changed only and then remove one of the strikers and put an attacking midfielder remove one D link and it is those two positions that need rectification,’’ Dhlakama said.

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