Zimbabwe: Seven Games, Five Defeats, Two Draws

Senior Sports Editor

FIRST, it was their proud 17-match unbeaten run, knitted over half-a-dozen years, which went up in smoke on Sunday.

And, now, the Warriors have suffered back-to-back defeats, at the COSAFA Cup, for the first time, in 21 years.

A 1-2 defeat, at the hands of guest nation Senegal, in Port Elizabeth yesterday, sent the Warriors crashing out of the regional tournament, which they have dominated in the past, without a victory, in their four group matches.

Until Sunday, when they went down 0-2 to Namibia, the Warriors had not lost a match at the tournament, in regulation time, for six years.

Now, in just two games, spread over three days, the Warriors have lost back-to-back matches in the COSAFA Cup, for the first time, since September 1998.

Back then, the Warriors lost 1-2 to Angola, with Tauya Murewa on target, on August 30, 1998, before they crashed to a 0-1 defeat, at the hands of Zambia, with Rotson Kilambe scoring the only goal, at the National Sports Stadium.

In a dozen games, under coach Zdravko Logarusic, the Warriors have won just ONE game, lost SEVEN matches and drawn four others, including two against the coach’s favourite opponents, Malawi.

Should the Flames avoid defeat, in their final match against Senegal today, or lose by a single goal deficit, it means the Warriors will finish the regional tournament, as the bottom side, among the 10 nations, which took part.

Already, going into today’s final round of matches, the Warriors find themselves bottom of the pile, in the two groups, with just two points, from their four games.

For a team, which has a record six titles, under their belt, the Warriors have been poor, and barely recognisable, as the force they once were.

While Loga continues to blame the lack of sustained activity, on the domestic front, where the programme has been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, the coach’s questionable tactics, and team selection, has also come under the spotlight.

The impressive performance of the Namibians, whose domestic programme has also been badly affected by Covid-19 and administrative issues, which saw their football association suspending their top-flight league, has been used by analysts, to show that good coaches can find a way.

Loga’s mission at this tournament, in which he continued to claim he wanted to see how some players could feature, at such a stage, appears to be in conflict with his captain, Ovidy Karuru.

The veteran midfielder said he could not celebrate, winning the match-of-the-match award, after a 2-2 draw against Malawi, when he had come to this tournament to try and win it.

“I cannot be happy to win the man-of-the-match, without winning the game, because we came here to win the games, not to draw,” Karuru said.

“I am disappointed because we cannot go two games without a win. We came here to win the tournament, not to add the numbers.

“I think we created quite a number of chances but we didn’t take them home. I think we have been doing good in training and we have been pushing to score goals.

“But, I am happy with the attack because we created a lot of chances, which is good for us.

“It’s the name of the game, you win some, draw some and you lose some. We take the point home.”

And, it’s the depressing numbers, which Loga and his employers should confront, because they tell the story of a coach who has struggled to find a winning formula, with the Warriors, when it comes to tournament football.

Last year, the Croat took the Warriors to the CHAN finals, in Cameroon, where they lost all their three matches, in Group A, against hosts Cameroon (0-1), Burkina Faso (1-3) and Mali (0-1).

It marked the first time, since the Warriors started taking part in the CHAN finals in 2009, that the Warriors have lost all their matches, at the showcase.

Although they didn’t win a game, at the inaugural final, in 2009, the Warriors didn’t lose a match, too, drawing all their three games, in a tough group, which featured the eventual finalists, Ghana and the DRC.

Ironically, it was Karuru’s fine performance, at that tournament, in Cote d’Ivoire, which saw him winning a contract to play in France before he retreated to the South African Premiership.

At the 2014 CHAN finals, in South Africa, the same country where Loga’s men have failed miserably, the Warriors went all the way to the semi-finals, where they were eventually beaten by eventual winners Libya, in a penalty shootout, after a goalless draw.

Last year, the Warriors suffered the ignominy of finishing as the bottom-ranked side, among all the 16 teams at the CHAN finals, without a point, in their three matches.

The miserable numbers of the team’s performance, at that CHAN finals, and their poor show, at the COSAFA Cup this year, show that, in SEVEN matches, at the two finals, in Cameroon and South Africa, Loga has failed to win even one match.

They have lost five games and drawn two.

This means that, under the Croat, the Warriors have, at the two tournaments, averaged just a goal, every two hours (126 minutes to be precise), while they have been conceding a goal, every 57 minutes.