Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
NOW that the pain of bombing out of the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifiers is official, a smart analysis of the whole project is needed.
The Warriors started off badly against South Africa and their performance continued to deteriorate one game after the other.
They lost the next match 1-0 to Ethiopia, 3-1 and 1-0 to Ghana in back-to-back matches.
The 1-0 loss on Tuesday virtually put paid to any dreams of advancing to the next stage of the qualifiers.
Under interim coach Norman Mapeza, who replaced Zdravko Logaruši , the Warriors’ chances against Ghana were always going to be slim.
Their confidence levels were at the lowest ebb after winning only once from 14 matches under the previous coaches.
There was therefore no need to continue on the trajectory that led to the confidence levels plummeting, but arriving home after an away encounter and finding the same opponents you lost to a few days earlier already comfortably in your country does not inspire confidence on its own.
Mapeza signed a three-month contract, which will see him in charge of the World Cup qualifiers, but now that the Warriors are out, a sober decision now needs to be made for the good of the nation.
The remaining two dead rubbers for Zimbabwe are insignificant in as far as the actual competition is concerned, but very crucial for the next tournament, the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon next year.
So Zifa must make it clear that focus now should be Afcon.
But Mapeza, according to his contract, won’t be around when the squad flies to Cameroon since it ends in December.
Zifa should either relieve Mapeza of his duties now before the next encounter against South Africa or extend his contract post Afcon finals.
It would be fruitless and pointless for Mapeza to prepare the team for the Afcon finals then a new coach is appointed to take the squad to the finals.
That coach would need more time to know the players or even choose to select his own players.
It’s clear that continuity is needed in the national team setup, especially in the run-up to such an important tournament on the African continent.
Mapeza’s vision for the national team is clear. The policy and philosophy he wants to instill into the players that if you play well for your club, he won’t ignore you.
Past reputation is not a consideration under him and only present form qualifies one for national team selection.
He has made it clear that being based outside the country is not a guarantee for selection.
Only deserving players will get a chance to wear the national colours regardless of where they play.
Mapeza himself is a product of a coach who believed a player should be selected on merit.
As an unknown Daryn T player, the late dream Team coach Reinhard Fabisch rewarded an in-form Mapeza and thrust him into the starting line-up for his debut against Zambia led by the a fiery Kalusha Bwalya.
He went on to star and eventually captain the national team and made his name in Europe at Turkish giants Galatasaray in the 1990s.
This is what Mapeza believes in, but he can only implement it should Zifa avoid further drama.
The Warriors’ Afcon finals squad should also have the 2026 World Cup in sight.
Certainly, that vision cannot involve the bulk of players that have embarrassed ZZimbabwean football since the Logaruši era.
The squad called-up for the two back-to-back clashes against Ghana has a combined age of 735 years, which is an average of 28.26 years.
Sixteen of those players are below 30, while 10 are above 30.
Goalkeeper Washington Arubi is 36, left-back Onismo Bhasera is 35 and Thabani Kamusoko (33).
Captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat are both 31, and while they may seem key members of the squad, statistics point otherwise.
Musona has only scored twice in the past two years, both from set pieces, while Billiat has probably forgotten how to celebrate a goal in the warriors’ colours.
These are some of the decisions that have to be made by Zifa and the technical team.
Does the nation still have to rely on Musona? Do we still have to wail if Billiat is not part of the starting line-up?
Some may argue that Portuguese sensation Cristiano Ronaldo is 36 years old, Argentine talisman Lionel Messi is 34, but are still regarded as kingpins for both club and country.
Yes, statistics point in their favour and besides that, it’s ridiculous to compare the two football geniuses to any of the current crop of Warriors’ players, especially Musona and Billiat.
The two have previously produced wonders for the Warriors, but now that sparkle has deserted them.
Only honesty and a reality check will provide relief for the Warriors’ long suffering fans.
And this calls for courage to make some very unpopular decisions.