Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
THE Warriors. — battered by the poor showing of the home-based players at the African Nations Championship finals in Rwanda — have slumped to their record-equalling lowest FIFA rankings and team manager Sharrif Mussa says it’s a reality check that calls for action from all fronts.
Zimbabwe fell to number 131 on the world rankings as the Warriors’ poor show in Rwanda, where they crashed out of the 2016 CHAN finals in the first round despite being one of the seeded teams — came back to haunt the nation.
The latest Coca-Cola/FIFA rankings showed that the Warriors dropped 23 places down the ladder from number 108, which they occupied last month when the rankings were released on January 7.
They have also lost a considerable ground on the continent after plunging 10 places on the African table to occupy a lowly 41st place.
According to the information released by FIFA yesterday, the world football governing body also took into consideration the performance of the team at the CHAN tournament, where Zimbabwe finished win-less.
Given that the Warriors were considered one of the most powerful teams, their win-less run, losing two matches and drawing one in Rwanda, had a huge impact on their rankings and Mussa said there is need for the team to work harder so that they climb up the ladder again.
“Obviously this is not encouraging and not motivating and the reality is that we have to up our tempo. The Association should also organise some friendly international matches for us and bring back the glory days,” said Mussa.
“The once-upon-a-time small teams are no longer small and are doing everything possible to raise their game and rise. But the FIFA international matches are also helpful and we should play a number of those.”
He acknowledged that they paid a huge price for their doomed campaign in Rwanda.
Mali, who were in Zimbabwe’s group and needed a very late goal to secure their 1-0 victory, yesterday qualified for the CHAN final, after beating Cote d’Ivoire, where they will meet the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kigali on Sunday.
Zambia, who won the group that featured the Warriors, might have lost in the quarter-finals but it needed a penalty shoot-out to send them out and, to their credit, Chipolopolo didn’t concede a goal in all the four games they played.
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the positive results in our group but in terms of technique and tactics we were better. If you look at Mali, they capitalised on the only chance they got and luck was also on their side and even in the semi-final against Cote d’Ivoire they also scored a last-minute winner,” said Mussa.
Zimbabwe are now below a host of minnows such as Swaziland, who now sit five places above us, with the Warriors set to take on Sihlangu in the African Cup of Nations qualifiers on the weekend of 23 to 29 March.
Only 13 teams are now below us in Africa and these include lightweights like Sao Tome, Eritrea, Seychelles, Lesotho and Somalia.
Zimbabwe were once ranked 40th in the world during the Dream Team days when Reinhard Fabisch was in charge in the ‘90s.
In sharp contrast, Cape Verde continue their steady rise and are now the second best team in Africa behind Cote d’Ivoire who are on pole position on the continent.
North Africans Algerians, Ghana and Senegal complete the African Top 5.
However, Yaya Toure and company, who have been in the past the only African team in the World Top 20 lost that position this month and are now on position 28.
Callisto Pasuwa’s charges resume their Afcon dance next month hoping to topple Swaziland who are on top position in Group L with four points.
Zimbabwe also have four points after managing an away victory against Malawi and a home draw against Guinea. The Warriors play back-to-back matches against Sihlangu next month in a crucial week which could define our 2017 Nations Cup dreams.
Meanwhile, the ZIFA leadership is expected back home today from Dubai where they had followed up a proposal for an Afro-Asia tournament which should take place in Zimbabwe.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa, chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze and board member Edzai Kasinauyo were part of the delegation.
Chiyangwa also met FIFA presidential candidate, Prince Ali of Jordan, in Dubai.