Warriors face Bafana after Lesotho disaster

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Warriors face Bafana after Lesotho disaster

The Sunday Mail

Tadious Manyepo in JOHANNESBURG, South Africa

JAIROS TAPERA and his Warriors have little time to lick their wounds following a more like self-inflicted defeat to Lesotho in a 2026 World Cup qualifier at Orlando Stadium on Friday.

They have to quickly dust themselves up and regroup for another upcoming and even trickier assignment against South Africa at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

The Warriors flattered to deceive when losing 2-0 to minnows Lesotho in what ranks as one of the lowest points by the national team.

Hastily assembled and handed over to a gaffer who was not part of the selection process, yet appointed a mere few days before the fixture against the Crocodiles, Zimbabwe were always going to struggle against a better-organised Lesotho.

And they did, with the thousands of fans who half-filled the magnificent Soweto arena urging them on in vain.

They now anchor the six-team Group C table on two points from three games, with Lesotho topping the standings with five points after match-day three.

With Nigeria and South Africa settling for a 1-1 draw in Uyo on Friday night, it means Group C, from which only pool winners are guaranteed a place in Canada, Mexico and the United States, remains wide open.

But that means Zimbabwe will have to pick up maximum points against Bafana Bafana in Bloemfontein on Tuesday to remain in firm contention for a maiden tour at the global show-piece.

They will travel a further 450 kilometres down from South Africa’s commercial capital, but they will still hold an edge over their hosts, who should be fatigued after flying for about 9 000km to and from Nigeria inside just three days.

And Tapera, who blamed a complacent defence for the defeat against Lesotho, has challenged his men to be up to the task when they come face to face with South Africa in the Limpopo derby.

“Like I said after the loss to Lesotho, we have no excuses and have to blame ourselves for letting in soft goals. We also have no excuses when we come up against South Africa,” he said.

“It’s a tricky encounter by any measure, given what is at stake and the football rivalry that exists between the two teams.

“South Africa are in good space, having recorded tremendous progress in their game this year. We saw them doing well at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire early this year. And on Friday night, they kept Nigeria in a corner in their own backyard.

“They were impressive in all aspects of their game and in hindsight, you would feel that they could have won that match.”

Tapera said the Warriors will not over-respect South Africa when they clash on Tuesday.

“It’s a game that we know we have to win to give ourselves a chance in this race,” he said. “The good thing about Group C is its competitiveness, which has left it wide open.

“But we need to do our bit and ensure that we remain well in the running for a place at the World Cup. That calls for maximum concentration and focus.

“I guess the match against Lesotho threw some really big lessons our way, which we have to implement going forward.”

The Warriors were scheduled to be hosted by the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa yesterday before travelling to Bloemfontein today.

Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, and several Zimbabwean companies based here, led by Zororo-Phumulani, have been ensuring that the Warriors are comfortable since their arrival on Sunday last week.

Zororo-Phumulani, which is powered by Doves Zimbabwe, has also been mobilising legends of the game, including former captain Peter Ndlovu, to talk to the boys and knock some positivity into them going into the match against South Africa.

The entity will also transport over 500 Warriors fans from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein to back the team against South Africa.

Meanwhile, Ngezi Platinum Stars midfielder Richard Hachiro has been called to join the team as a replacement for the injured Brendan Galloway.

Galloway could not join camp after suffering a sprain recurrence before flying to South Africa.

Tapera had indicated that they would not call in a replacement, but have had a change of mind, with the gritty midfielder arriving in South Africa and watching the game against Lesotho from the terraces, alongside his former Herentals teammate Tino Benza, who travelled to cheer Zimbabwe.

With his admirer Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa, who first played him in the national team, being the technical adviser, Hachiro could be given some significant minutes in the field of play against South Africa.

With captain Marshall Munetsi demanding a response from his mates, the Warriors are expected to put on a better show against South Africa.

“We are disappointed with the defeat to Lesotho. We should have done a lot better than we did,” said Munetsi.

“But we have another game coming up and we don’t have too much time to think of the Lesotho encounter. We need to respond by getting the full points against South Africa.”

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