A week after the World Cup implosion

Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor

IT rained in Harare yesterday, as if to wash away the tears the capital has been shedding all week, in the wake of the Warriors’ early elimination, from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. 

As if sent by some divine powers, the rains came down on the day marking the end of the week since the Warriors’ World Cup dreams were extinguished, by the Black Stars. 

Thunder rumbled in the grey skies, as if to provide a fitting soundtrack to the bleak mood, which has been around the capital, since the Warriors crashed out of football’s biggest tournament. 

In a way, it could also have been a natural expression of the anger, which has raging among football fans in this city, amid the fury which greeted their team’s downfall. 

Bolts of lightning kept flashing, as if to try and provide some light, in the gloom, which has enveloped local football, since the World Cup adventure ended. 

Now, and again, car alarms went off, in response to the chaos brought about by the combination of thunder and lightning.

As if to suggest that, even for nature itself, the rate at which the Warriors have been falling from grace, is now alarming. 

Others will probably claim the rains came down to wash away the sins, which the local football leaders committed, in their culpability, in the national team’s monumental collapse. 

And, the optimistic lot will probably claim it’s a cleansing act, nature’s powerful response, to one of the most depressing weeks, in the history of local football. 

A reminder of the very sad day, last week, when the Warriors returned home, to be welcomed by their opponents, who had already arrived in Harare, about 16 hours earlier, than their hosts. 

When the Black Stars were warming up, for their first training session at the National Sports Stadium, the Warriors had just taken off from Addis Ababa, embarking on the final leg of their trip, a four hour flight, back home. 

By the time the Ghanaians were training, the Warriors were probably flying over Kenya or Tanzania, in a journey which had taken them from the western part to the eastern part, of the continent. 

Now, they were heading to the southern part, the place they call home, for the biggest game, in their World Cup qualifiers. 

One in which they would be trying to save their campaign, with victory giving them a flicker of hope, and defeat sending them out of the qualifiers. 

A team, barred from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, punished for the sins of their leaders, who failed to pay Brazilian coach his dues, now found themselves on the verge of crashing out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, after playing just three group matches. 

That’s just 270 minutes of action, in which they had failed to win even a game, and scored just once, from the penalty spot. 

And, on this day last week, their World Cup dreams came to a crashing end, the light was blown away and the fears of the nation, came to pass. 

A 0-1 defeat, at the hands of the Black Stars at the National Sports Stadium, confirmed the Warriors’ elimination. 

They joined Niger and Djibouti, the two countries eliminated from Group A, which has been dominated by Algeria, who have a perfect 12 points, from their first four matches. 

Islam Slimini, the Algerian striker who plays for the same French club, Olympique Lyon, with Tino Kadewere, has scored six goals, in the qualifiers, while the Warriors have scored just once. 

Riyad Mahrez, the other Algerian hotshot forward, has scored four goals, in the qualifiers. 

Mauritania, who provided the Warriors with company with just one point, from their first four qualifiers, have also been eliminated. 

Their reaction was to fire their coach. 

Liberia were also eliminated, with just a point, from their first four qualifiers, in Group C, while Mozambique (one point) and Malawi (three points) also fell by the wayside. 

Angola (three points), Kenya (two points), Rwanda (one point), Togo (four points), Namibia (four points), Guinea Bissau (four points), Guinea (three points) and Sudan (two points) have also been eliminated. 

Just like in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, the Warriors find themselves with just a point, from their first four group matches.

Back then, they got their campaign with a 0-1 home loss to Guinea before a goalless draw, against Mozambique in Maputo, gave them their first point. 

They then fell to 1-2 defeat to the Pharaohs of Egypt, in their third match, with the hosts needing a last-minute penalty, to win the contest. 

Then, in the reverse encounter in Harare, the Pharaohs, inspired by a sublime hat-trick from Mohamed Salah, powered to a 4-2 victory. 

Musona had scored in Egypt and, after grabbing another goal in Harare, against the same opponents, he had two of the three goals, which the Zimbabweans had in their bag. 

The other goal came from defender Lincoln Zvasiya. 

The defender has since left the scene but Musona remains in the trenches and his goal, from the penalty spot, in the defeat in Ghana, is the only time the Warriors have found the target, in this miserable campaign. 

It has been a long week, for the Warriors, and their fans, as they struggle to come up with an explanation, as to why their latest campaign imploded in such spectacular fashion. 

It’s not being helped by the reality that one of their biggest rivals, South Africa, are enjoying the comforts of being top of the group.

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