The Sunday Mail
NORMAN MAPEZA has brought the pizzazz back into the Warriors and the lads love it.
Despite the palpable pressure ahead of this afternoon’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium the interim national team gaffer has given his players licence to razzmatazz.
Mapeza reckons winning is just not enough, a team that carries the country’s flag, a team made up of the best players in the land should have some swagger about them.
Under Kallisto Pasuwa the Warriors always employed a safety first approach with simplicity being the ultimate sophistication.
The team never was a bit heavy on the eye but to Pasuwa’s credit it somehow found a way to grind the result needed during the qualifiers before terribly falling short at Gabon 2017.
Mapeza comes from a different school of thought and his hands-on approach as well as vast knowledge of the game have charmed the players.
His heyday tales – including the legendary one about marking Romario out of the game during a UEFA Champions League game – are the stuff that lights up the eyes of football players.
“Uyu munhu anotaura bhora mudhara. (This one knows his stuff),” was the popular statement among the lads sounded out soon after Friday’s morning workout.
While congisant of the need not to point former coach Pasuwa as boring the national team players said Mapeza and his technical team have brought “drills that make training enjoyable.”
During the two weeks he has had the lads in camp Mapeza has not sought to turn ball artists into artisans but has been looking for the right balance.
“All we have to do is play to our strengths. There is always pressure when one plays for the national team but the boys need to be confident of their abilities and play their normal game,” said Mapeza.
George Chigova, initially overlooked for national duty before being added on late following an injury to Edmore Sibanda, is set to guard goal after putting some daylight between himself and the pair of Ariel Sibanda and Petroes Mhari at training.
Chigova’s work ethic also has goalkeepers’ coach Tembo Chuma scrambling for superlatives.
“The boy has greatly improved on his reflexes since the last time I worked with him,” said Chuma.
“Given his weight and height it’s surprising how he has become quicker. Chigova is sharper, faster and he has been working hard.”
It’s a new era for vice captain Partson Jaure, the defender who has successfully managed to play his way back into the national team after being implicated in the much-ado about nothing Limpopogate match fixing case.
Jaure should partner Teenage Hadebe at centre half while Eric Chipeta and Onismor Bhasera slot in at right and left full back respectively.
Danny Phiri, the man former skipper Willard Katsande tipped as his successor, will act as a pivot in a midfield that will also feature Marvellous Nakamba and Thabani Kamusoko at the heart of it.
Skipper Knowledge Musona and Kuda Mahachi will roam the wings with Orlando Pirates man Tendai Ndoro leading the attack.
Ndoro hasn’t been in fine form of late but Mapeza has decided to give him the nod ahead of Evans Rusike because of his ability to keep possession and tee up others.
Rusike and Ovidy Karuru should offer attacking options from the bench.
Probable line up: G. Chigova, E. Chipeta, P. Jaure, T. Hadebe, O. Bhasera, D. Phiri, M. Nakamba, T. Kamusoko, K. Mahachi, K. Musona, T. Ndoro