Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
Zimbabwe Under-20 . . . . . . . . . . . 0
Cameroon Under-20 . . . . . . . . . . 0
YOUNG Warriors coach Jairos Tapera blamed poor preparations after the national Under-20 soccer team was held to a goalless draw by Cameroon in the first leg of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations first round qualifiers at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
An irate Tapera praised his players and the entire technical team for keeping a clean sheet but the result still left them with a tall order in the return leg in West Africa in three weeks time.
And while Zimbabwe were mourning over shoddy preparations, the visitors’ coach made it clear that his team will finish off the job on June 10.
One more qualification round is still on before the teams go to the age-group Afcon in neighbouring country Zambia next year.
You could even feel pity for Zimbabwe’s lack of preparation as Tapera revealed that he had to drive on the eve of the game to pick up striker Obert Tofira from home.
Tofira was plunged into action in the second period and could have found the winner but his header missed the target.
“Hats off to the technical team, they did a splendid job. We were given three days of training. Of those days, we only trained for two days because the other day we had some problems that we couldn’t control.
“These guys (Cameroon) got two months to prepare in camp and had three international friendlies and it is sad for our country to do such things. It is really unbelievable, with these young boys giving such a splendid performance after only training for two days.
“Some of these players, we only trained with them yesterday when we were doing warm-up. I had to drive to look for these young boys using my own resources, it is unbelievable,” said Tapera.
The Young Warriors gaffer said they can still get something from the tournament provided they prepare well before the reverse leg.
“Even if you were to say we still fancy our chances in Cameroon, are we going to be given enough time to prepare? My programme is, I thought we could not break camp and continue training; and whatever is going to happen in Cameroon is something else but we have to be prepared.
“Football is about preparing. These guys are not naturally talented, talent is only shown because they have been shaped, they have been moving around with the ball. But if you are going to just pick somebody from home, yesterday, I had to pick Obert from home, and trained for 30 minutes, a national team player?
“If you don’t prepare you are obviously preparing to fail that is the naked truth about football,” said Tapera.
The Young Warriors also faltered at home in the first round where they lost 0-1 to Botswana at Barbourfields before turning on the heat in Gaborone, winning 2-0.
However, the national Under-20 side may not be lucky again this time around as Cameroon coach Cyprian Besong Ashu vowed to finish off Zimbabwe in the return leg.
He said his team had been in camp for three months and they played international friendly matches twice against Ghana, Burkina Faso and Morocco.
He believed they didn’t play to their best yesterday.
“It could have been much better. We could live with it (the goalless draw). We still have the second leg at home but it was an average performance from us because we can step up another gear even though we created a number of chances . . . We could have done better.
“Back home it would be a different game. We can step up and I am sure we are confident and more positive of ourselves and we will give them a tough game back home,” he said.
The Cameroon gaffer even felt they were superior to their hosts yesterday.
He said the team is not going to rest but will work on their shortcomings.
“I think Zimbabwe did their best. They tried their best but I think we could do better. We looked stronger, quicker in the game and I think back home it would be a different game and I expect us to go through (to the last qualifying round).
“I see those chances back home going in. We are going back home to the training field and try to perfect some of our collective play and our finishing and we expect to get a good game back home.
“We are not happy with the draw because it was an average performance from us. We can go two gears up and play far much better and even if we created a lot of chances there is still a lot to work on and we can do much better,” he said.
Cameroon, who are hosting the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019, have said they are already rebuilding and would want to integrate some of the players from the junior sides into the senior national squad.
The Young Warriors’ meaningful chances came in the opening minutes and Highlanders forward Prince Dube and Bantu Rovers midfielder Blessing Sibanda could have at least given the hosts a goal.
Zimbabwe and Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Nelson Chadya kept the hosts in the match, especially towards the end of the game and denied Cameroon the crucial away goal.
The former Hartley goalie, who was last year’s Eastern Region Division One Goalkeeper of the Year, showed that his performance in Gaborone was no fluke.
Zimbabwe: N. Chadya, L. Lunga, B. Ncube, D. Phiri, M. Chodera, P. Musaka, B. Sibanda, A. Ncube (L. Mavhunga 46th minute), T. Kadyaridzire (B. Nyamuzihwa 85th minute), P. Dube, B. Sibanda (O. Tofira 75th minute).
Cameroon: S. Omossole, G. Makani, B. Makango, E. Rodrique, J. Bahamack. O. Samuel, M. Hongle, M. Ako (F. Mbeni 62nd minute), V. Mpindi, M. Landry (B. Herve 72nd minute), E. Ayuk.