Petros Kausiyo in RUBAVU, Rwanda
WILL this group of Warriors turn out to be the worst ever to represent Zimbabwe at the African Nations Championship finals?
Could skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi and his troops of 2016 be branded “a bunch of losers’’ who will emerge from their tour of duty to Rwanda with no points on the board, or even a goal, to show for their efforts?
The Warriors get their last chance to avoid all that when they take on Uganda in their final match today.
The match starts at 4pm.
CAPS United midfielder Joel Ngodzo is set to resume his romance with the CHAN game this afternoon following indications that he is to be handed a start as Zimbabwe seek to end their disastrous campaign on a winning note.
Although a win will not be enough to take them anywhere as they bowed out of the race for a quarter-final berth last Saturday, the Warriors have underlined the significance of winning today’s match to restore their battered pride.
Coach Callisto Pasuwa revealed yesterday that he would make changes once again to the team that dominated Mali, but ended on the losing side.
And Ngodzo, who last featured in a CHAN finals match in Sudan in 2011 when Madinda Ndlovu’s Warriors fell 1-2 to South Africa, is one of the players Pasuwa is hoping will help to change things around and give the senior side the cutting edge that has been glaringly lacking.
Ngodzo might not be an outright striker but the former Highlanders has the potential to turn on the kind of magic that made him an expensive buy for FC Platinum in 2011.
The 26-year-old midfielder who thrives in wide spaces is certain to start in place of FC Platinum’s speedy winger Marshal Mudehwe who sits out the final group game after picking a groin injury.
Mudehwe was full of running against the Eagles and could have been rewarded with a goal.
Pasuwa said he was also keen on watching how Bruce Kangwa, Raphael Manuvire and Ngodzo would apply themselves at this tournament.
“We have to play to win. We have not scored a goal and we have not won at this tournament so we have to do better, we still want to see some of the boys who didn’t feature in the first two games.
“It is not to say that they are bad players but it was just a question of getting a chance to play and now I think it is their opportunity to play. We have Bruce Kangwa, Raphael Manuvire and Joel Ngodzo and I really want to see how they will play at this level.
“I have also been advised by the doctors after an assessment this morning that Elisha (Muroiwa), Blessing Moyo and Marshal Mudewe will not be fit enough to play tomorrow so already there is one change on Marshal. We will see if we can make other changes but it will not be wholesale changes,’’ Pasuwa said.
The Warriors coach said he would particularly keep an eye on his forwards and his defenders to check if they have mustered the tactical awareness corrections they have been working on.
“We have been working on the technique of finishing and converting our chances into goals and we want to see that happening in the match tomorrow.
“We have also been working on our defending from set pieces and especially on the left flank and we have impressed on the need to track down all the opponents throughout. We can’t afford to continue being caught out’’.
The Warriors coach said he would take an offensive approach to the match against the Cranes.
“We will not sit back against Uganda. We have to show the improvement in front of goal,’’ said Pasuwa.
The coach predicted another tough assignment against the Cranes.
“Uganda are very good on the second ball and we have to be quick to get to the ball. We played them in South Africa two years ago and we drew 0-0 in a very close match.
“I think that is going to be the case again this time and we will need to be alert all the time. Any silly mistake we will be punished.
Uganda coach Milutin Sredojevic also reckoned that there are a number of similarities in styles and players ages between the Warriors and the Cranes which could produce a close affair.
The Serbian coach also felt the game could be deiced “by minor details’’ and was hopeful that it would be the Cranes who will be celebrating. But the Warriors have their own pressure of avoiding the humiliation of leaving Rwanda empty handed and in shame.