Lovemore Dube in Casablanca, Morocco
Morocco 2-1 Zimbabwe
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa was full of praise for his young charges after they held out their own against a formidable Morocco side which had a late penalty to thank for its 2-1 win at Grand Stad d’ Agadir on Sunday evening.
After the host’s 6‑1 demolition of Benin on Wednesday, the Warriors seemed to be sacrificial lambs ready to be roasted on the spit. Fans predicted a heavy score line with one taxi driver Lofty Ahmoud saying the team would be clobbered 8-0.
‘No chance my friend Morocco is too strong, eight, eight you will lose,’ he said hours before the game on Sunday.
Pasuwa’s charges won praises for the brand of football they showcased. Zifa are now challenged to up the ante and take it to a higher level.
It is a team for the future and Zifa have seen the wisdom in exposing it to international senior competition with a 2-0 win over Swaziland last month still fresh when another group of Under-23s proved that the time could be over for some of the senior Warriors who were part of the teams disgracefully bundled out of international competition by Angola in 2012 and Tanzania earlier this year.
The match was organised by Morocco who initially wanted to see their team warm up for the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 finals which they were due to host. The North Africans stung by fears that the competition could see fans and players from Ebola stricken countries bring it to Morocco in January requested that the tournament be moved to mid-2015. The Confederation of African Football could not accede to that request and instead has moved the competition to Equatorial Guinea.
Morocco fielded its best players, most of whom feature for clubs in Italy, the United Kingdom and France. At some stage there was little to suggest the huge gulf between Pasuwa’s locals dominated side and the professionals some of whom were drawn from African giants Magreb Athletic Tetuan who will take part in next month’s World Club Championships.
Zimbabwe’s defence and goalkeeper stole the show for the Warriors with Moroccan legend Ezaki Badou goalkeeper of the Atlas Lions in the 1986 Mexico World Cup finals also praising them.
“They were resolute at the back, they played very well and made it difficult for us with their defensive linkmen, but up front they played off the road,” said Badou.
Pasuwa who was accompanying the team for the first time in three outings was happy with how the boys applied themselves especially at the rear. He said building any team requires that one starts at the back and was impressed with what he had seen of the boys and believes a bright future lies ahead.
“The boys played very well, they gave it all their best and we were impressed with specifically how they contained their opponents with the goalkeeper Donovan Benard shutting them out while we were quite compact at the back.
“Our wide midfielders Carlos Rusere and Gabriel Nyoni combined well with defensive links Macauley Bonne and Charles Mukanhairi to provide good cover,” said the man who with three consecutive league titles with Dynamos and a fourth within reach has reached legend status.
He conceded that transition from defence and midfield into attack was poor.
“We wanted David Moyo to hold the ball up in attack so that we come in numbers but that did not work, but I am happy with the overall performance of the boys, it’s a good start for the future,” said Pasuwa.
The coach said he was happy to see Mukanhairi providing cover when Bonne went into attack and vice versa.
“Bonne has a good football brain, work rate and was winning a lot of aerial balls and it was good that he scored on his debut,” said the head coach.
Donovan was in imperious form with wingbacks Blessing Moyo and Ronald Pfumbidzayi playing well. But it was the untried central defence pairing of Teenage Hadebe who had as many as three scouts having a look at him from Europe and Bosso reject Douglas Sibanda who stole the show. They combined well to thwart several raids by Crystal Palace’s Chamak Maroune, Parlemo’s Achraf Lazaar, Stoke City’s Assaidi Oussama, Torino’s El Kaddouri Omar and Ait Ben Ider Jamel who turns out for Auxerre.
The star of the show blocked at least four certain goals and his ball distribution and cutting of corners was superb.
While Bonne and Mukanhairi toiled in central midfield, Pritchard Mpelele and David Moyo did not enjoy a clean and constant supply of the ball.
Perhaps the presence of talisman Kuda Mahachi could have made a lot of difference. He has the knack on taking and subtracting opponents and then setting up teammates and Marvelous Nakamba’s European experience could have made a difference.
Both could not travel after they were denied boarding access from their respective bases because authorities insisted on assurances that they would get Moroccan visas at the port of entry.
Pasuwa said he would, with his colleagues Saul Chaminuka, Nation Dube and Tembo Chuma, ask for a training camp for the boys in December.
The Under-23 team, which head of delegation Tawengwa Hara has already touted as the team of the future, is preparing for the 2015 African Championships set for the Democratic Republic of Congo, the All-Africa Games to be hosted by Congo Brazzaville and the 2016 Rio de Jainero Olympics.
Bonne shot Zimbabwe into the lead in the 18th minute prompting the home fans to chant ‘Ebola’ each time the Zimbabweans appeared to gain an upper hand.
In a text book move an interchange of about 10 passes on the edge of the Zimbabwe box saw Assadi Oussama of Stoke City equalise in the 62nd minute with a hard curling shot that gave Donovan no chance at all. Zimbabwe had done well to fend off all attacks. Even some bad refereeing with a number of off the ball attacks and elbowing of the boys could not dampen their resolve to restore pride to a soccer crazy nation.
A somewhat harsh penalty decision in the 76th minute is what Morocco had to thank for their winner by Jajour Mohsinne of Magred.
The Warriors left Morocco today and arrive at sunset tomorrow.