Tanzania coach Charles Boniface Mkwasa has backed Zimbabwe to turn on the style at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, but warned the Warriors to ensure they do not leave anything to chance in their preparations for the continental soccer showpiece.
Mkwasa made the remarks shortly after watching his Taifa Stars being dismantled by classy Warriors in an international friendly at the National Sports Stadium yesterday. The Warriors were using the match as part of their preparations for next year’s Nations Cup tournament where they have been placed in Group B alongside continental heavyweights Senegal, Algeria and Tunisia. Warriors talisman Knowledge Musona, Matthew Rusike and Nyasha Mushekwi gave the Nations Cup bound side the confidence boost they needed with a goal each in a rare international friendly for coach Callisto Pasuwa featuring the bulk of foreignbased professionals.
Mkwasa was impressed by the talent in the host’ team, but warned that they should not read much into their victory over the Taifa Stars yesterday. The former Young Africans coach felt the Warriors, who are the underdogs in the AFCON group, needed to do more to achieve an upset in Gabon. “First of all I would like to congratulate the Zimbabwe national team, they played very well. The game was good we learnt a lot from the Zimbabweans. “They made full use of the mistakes that we made and they won the game. They are a very good team, very experienced players, I salute them,” said Mkwasa.
“Our team was a little bit weak because of the preparation we had. So when they (Zimbabwe) go to AFCON they have to be up there because they are going to meet teams with a lot of experience. But I wish them all the best at AFCON. “They (Zimbabwe) have to work hard because the teams that they are going to face will be well prepared . . . they are teams with professionals.” Mkwasa, who replaced Dutchman Mart Noorj in June and has been tasked to rebuild the Taifa Stars, also suggested that Zimbabwe could come to Tanzania for another international friendly before they depart for Gabon.
The Warriors are looking to engage Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire as part of their preparations for the continental tourney while another friendly against the Uganda Cranes has been on the cards. Pasuwa was thrilled by the result yesterday after seeing his team creating a number of chances and managing to convert three of them. The Warriors could have opened the scoring early in the game, but the visitors’ goalkeeper Aishi Manula made a great save to deny Rusike from close range following a spirited run into the box by Marvelous Nakamba, in a move that also involved Kuda Mahachi.
Musona then made no mistake when coming face to face with the keeper after he was teed up by Mushekwi who had jumped the highest in the box to bring down a high ball from Onismor Bhasera in the ninth minute. The Belgianbased forward coolly slotted the ball past the hapless goalkeeper into the bottom corner. The East Africans could have equalised almost instantly with a header from Elias Muguri. But Warriors goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva pulled out a stunning save when he sprung from the ground to tip the ball over the crossbar.
The Dynamos goalkeeper was again called into service when the Taifa Stars’ kingpin Mbwana Samatta benefited from an error by Musona deep in the home team’s half. Samatta, however, hurried his shot and Mukuruva had it covered with an outstretched leg. Then Musona almost caught the visitors by surprise with a longrange volley soon after the restart. But it was Rusike who added to the Warriors tally nine minutes after the break when he unleashed a rising shot from just outside the penalty box following an interchange involving Musona and Mushekwi. Mushekwi, who provided two assists, added his name on the scoresheet reacting to a low cross from Musona on the left with a diving header from a tight angle in the 57th minute.
“I think in terms of scoring we are doing good. But the problem is when we lose the ball, some of the guys forget to keep pressure on the ball. “Remember when we attack we lose shape so the moment we lose the ball we would need to put pressure on the ball in order for the other guys to recover to their defending positions. So that’s an area we need to work on again,” said Pasuwa. The Warriors coach gave most of his players a chance to play yesterday and made six changes in the second half bringing in Oscar Machapa, Bruce Kangwa, Cuthbert Malajila, Tendai Ndoro and Khama Billiat who recently won the CAF Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns.
Swedenbased forward Tino Kadewere, who like Machapa was not part of the AFCON qualifiers was also given a run as second half substitutes. Pasuwa also decided to try Danny Phiri at centreback as he paired the former Chicken Inn skipper with Teenage Hadebe, while Lawrence Mhlanga was relegated to the bench. The injury to Elisha Muroiwa has left a hole in the position and Pasuwa has to be convinced who will partner Costa Nhamoinesu at the AFCON tournament.
“Remember last time when we played Zambia we had Lawrence on the centre back position and today we needed to have another option and I think they did very well. They were comfortable with the ball although there was pressure from the supporters. “Overall, it’s coming up, but we need more games to see how we play defensively or offensively. One or two more games will do in order for us to come up with a compact team,” said Pasuwa. Teams Zimbabwe: T. Mukuruva, H. Zvirekwi (O. Machapa, 75th minute), O. Bhasera (B. Kangwa, 75th minute), T. Hadebe, D. Phiri, W. Katsande, M. Nakamba, K. Mahachi (C. Malajila, 75th minute), M. Rusike (K. Billiat, 59th minute), K. Musona (T. Kadewere, 68th minute), N. Mushekwi (T. Ndoro, 59th minute) Tanzania: A. Manula, M. Pius, M. Mohamad, A. Chikupe, E. Nyoni, H. Mkami, S. Yahya (J. Mnyate, 87th minute), M. Saidi (M. Ibrahim, 70th minute), M. Samatta, E. Maguri (J. Bocco, 75th minute), S. Msuva (T. Ulimwengu, 70th minute)