The Sunday Mail
THE Warriors touched down in Harare a distraught lot yesterday afternoon, to meet a sombre nation that has endured one of its worst football weeks. To make matters worse, the nation is also mourning the death of former President Robert Mugabe, who passed away last Friday.
Zimbabwe’s flagship sporting team committed an ‘abomination’ last Thursday night when they fell 0-1 to Somalia – the lowest ranked nation in the word – in the first leg of the 2022 World Cup preliminary round qualifier in neutral Djibouti. The defeat, which came a day before the Young Warriors were hammered 5-0 in South Africa, has been described as one of the biggest shocks in sporting history. Some have even gone on to label this group of Warriors as the worst. However, new skipper Alec Mudimu and his troops have vowed to prove critics wrong when they host Somalia in the return leg at the National Sports on Tuesday.
“This is no time for blame games, we need to stay together and overcome this embarrassment together,” Mudimu told The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday. “We are trying to prove something to the nation. The technical staff, led by Joey Antipas, also wants to prove something to the nation, so we will try and get a positive result to cheer up the nation which endured a lot last week.”
The Warriors, who never trained together before the first leg, dominated the match and could have easily won the encounter had they buried the numerous chances that came their way. In fact, their travel for the first leg resembled that of a social club with the players and new coach Antipas only getting to meet each for the first time on the eve of the match in the searing heat of Djibouti. “I don’t know what really affected us. Maybe it was due to lack of training before the game. We just failed to put away our chances.
“I can actually vouch for my players because we played very well, it was only in the dying moments when we really went to sleep.
“We got caught out and they broke on the counter. lt was a bit naïve on our part but these things happen. But we are not the worst, the best way to overcome this pain is by getting a positive result on Tuesday. “Each and every one of them know what to do since they have been called up. I am 110 percent sure all of them (players) are willing to put in 2 000 percent for the nation, so that we wipe out this embarrassment,” said Mudimu.
France-based midfielder Marshal Munetsi apologised to the nation but is confident that Somalia will fall heavily at the National Sports Stadium.
“It wasn’t our intention to lose the match, we were the much stronger team. I think we underestimated them,” said Munetsi.
“But what I know is that we will collect maximum points, score more goals and qualify for the next round. “We want to do this for ourselves, we wouldn’t want to have a record of being the team that was knocked out by Somalia, so it’s more about ourselves. At least we have more time to prepare for the second leg. “It’s very important for the nation to qualify for the World Cup, we are motivated to be the first group to do it and the journey starts here,” said Munetsi. A former Orlando Pirates man, Munetsi finally made his French Ligue 1 debut for Reims last weekend.
Turkish-based star defender Teenage Hadebe, who missed the first leg due to injury, is willing to play on Tuesday through the pain “for the nation.” “It was a disappointment for the nation and we want to quickly get over it. I missed the first leg because I had a bruise near the calf, so there was a bit of precaution there.
“It takes one week or so to heal but I am an African, I am strong, so why not help my country. I am willing to play through the pain barrier,” revealed Hadebe. “Remember we are playing at home, they (Somalia) are not that good. Sometimes if you are playing at home you have a bit of luck. If we just utilise our chances, I am certain we will hit them for five or more.”
Zimbabwe need to win by two clear goals to qualify for the group stage of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers. With the likes of Evans Rusike, Thabani Kamusoko, Admiral Muskwe and Terence Dzvukamanja also in the team, the Warriors are heavily tipped to progress.
Mudimu and his troops are fully aware that they have to avoid being branded the worst ever Class of Warriors. On Tuesday, they get a chance to redeem themselves in that “Operation restore Pride’’ encounter.