Brito wants to build on positives
Tadious Manyepo in KIGALI, Rwanda
WARRIORS coach Baltemar Brito believes he has a firm ground to build on a formidable team after Zimbabwe held Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in a 2026 World Cup qualifier at Huye Stadium on Sunday.
The Warriors fluffed three golden chances late in the game and could have emerged victorious against a Super Eagles side now under attack from critics, who expected them to collect six points from their opening two matches.
They have managed two draws.
Sunday’s 1-1 result was the Warriors’ second draw in as many matches having opened the campaign with a goalless stalemate against Rwanda at the same venue last Wednesday on their return to international football exactly 670 days after a FIFA ban.
Although Brito felt his squad had a realistic chance to beat both Rwanda and Nigeria to set the pace in Group C, he affirmed that the squad has the potential to become one of the top teams if they build on the momentum.
Zimbabwe, who are now relatively new-look given the permanent faces like former captain Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Ovidy Karuru are no longer part of the side were understandably jittery in the first match against Rwanda.
They fashioned out some decent chances, but it was the home side which got the best opportunities. The Gerald Takwara marshalled backline and some outstanding goalkeeping by Donovan Bernard kept the Rwandans at bay.
But the Warriors brought their A-Game in the Nigeria game and looked to be on their way to a historic win after Walter Musona powered home a stinging freekick 26 minutes into the game before Kelechi Iheanacho equalised for the giants midway through the second half.
With two points in two matches in a six-team group from which only the winners will qualify for the quadrennial jamboree in 2026, Brito feels the team can surmount the task with the right mindset.
“This is only our second game of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. It’s a process. We saw a lot of difference in the game against Nigeria as compared to the game against Rwanda,” said Brito.
“We need to build not only inside the field of play but also the organisation around the football team.
“We have picked so many positives. We need a positive mindset which also brings positive things. Gossip doesn’t bring anything”.
The Highlanders gaffer said the Warriors need not rest on their laurels just because they did well against Nigeria.
“We need to grow as a team. We are still in the process and we can’t relax just because we have drawn with Nigeria, no the mindset should keep on improving and improving” he said.
“Sometimes people fall asleep when they have something good but right now is the standard to go forward”.
Brito was also charmed with how debutants Andy Rinomhota and Munashe Garan’anga carried themselves in the game against Nigeria.
Rinomhota was handed a starting berth ahead of Brian Banda in midfield.
Given the Number 10 role, the Cardiff City man was as efficient as they come.
He was so comfortable on the ball and his intelligent off-the-ball runs especially caught the eye.
He would be withdrawn towards the end for Tanaka Shandirwa.
Garan’anga was introduced in the second half and Brito immediately shifted the team to a 3-5-2 formation from 4-3-3.
The dreadlocked defender joined Teenage Hadebe and Takwara in defence and he mopped up play very well.
“I am happy with the way these guys played. We have somewhere to start as a team,” said Brito.
“They are very professional. I like their discipline and their work ethic. We are introducing these players based abroad gradually into the squad.
“Those who played (Garan’anga and Rinomhota) did very well and that’s a good sign. We will be introducing the others gradually but I am happy”.