JOHANNESBURG – A distraught Sunday Chidzambwa placed the blame on himself for Zimbabwe’s early Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) exit, and to an extent he was right.
The Warriors’ coach was found wanting tactically. He was exposed by shrewder tacticians than him. With all their talent, Zimbabwe lacked structure and cohesion, which is why they finished at the bottom of Group A with just one point.
Egypt were sharper than them upfront while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who thrashed them 4-0 on Sunday, were more ruthless than Chidzambwa’s team.
Zimbabwe had a good opportunity to reach the last 16 for the first time in the country’s history when they took on DRC in their last group match. Not only had they beaten DRC in the 2019 Afcon qualifiers, but four points would have been enough to take them to the quarter-finals. But instead of finishing with four points, DRC gave them four.
“We had a very bad day in the office. We didn’t play well in all the departments,” Chidzambwa said. “We had to change the goalkeeper during warm up because our first choice goalkeeper (George Chigova of Polokwane City) got injured. But it’s not an excuse at all. We played badly.
We conceded easy goals. It was a bad performance from all departments on our part, and I think that we need to go home and rewind our performances and get the way forward.”
The Zimbabweans started the tournament in dramatic fashion when they refused to train a day before they took on Egypt at Cairo International Stadium. The bonus drama was resolved and they honoured the fixture the players were threatening not to attend. The players said that that chaos didn’t affect their performance, but their display showed otherwise. They were woeful in front of goal.
“We made mistakes in this game,” Chidzambwa said. “We conceded early and we had to chase the game, when you are chasing the game against a team like DRC, it becomes hard because they are a very good side. We never came to the party.”
Zimbabwe have been forced to do some serious introspection, for all the talent they have - the political wrangling and financial instability of the Zimbabwean Football Association (Zifa) is holding the country’s football back.
Zimbabwe came to the tournament with an outdated coach who lacked the tactical insight needed to outsmart Uganda, Egypt and the DRC. However, the players must also shoulder some of the blame. In all three games they created chances but lacked finishing. They consistently went about doing things the same way to solve the same problem and they couldn’t find the solution.
Chidzambwa believes that complacency crept into the players’ approach when they took on DRC.
“If you look at our game and the way we started, we were very slow and I think that complacency was there,” Chidzambwa said. “I take the blame. In the near future we need to approach the game differently.”@Mihlalibaleka