The football gods can be cruel

by | Jan 11, 2022 | Sport | 0 comments


Staff Writer

Today Zimbabwe played Senegal in the Group B opening match at AFCON.

On paper, the two teams looked desperately uneven.

Zimbabwe ranked 121 in the world and Senegal is the highest ranked team from the continent at number 20 of the official world list.

Bookmarkers had already written Zimbabwe off, and expected a walk in the park for the Lions of Teranga.

Even Liverpool star Sadio Mane in the early minutes of the game behaved as if he was in target practice.

The first 20 minutes of the game were tough, as the team was on the backfoot.

Senegal were wasting chances, while Zimbabwe maintained their shape.

Credit to Norman Mapeza for being a pragmatic coach.

He knew his team could not match the Senegalese on ball retention, he went for a 3-5-2 formation to choke the supply to the forwards.

However, a congested midfield did very little to thwart the threaded passes which were finding their way to Keita Balde who was wasteful on at least three occasions.

After 20 minutes, the game became open.

Zimbabwe started picking up its game, with Kundai Benyu orchestrating passes from the middle of the park.

Although being a winger for his club in Iceland, he was playing a creative midfielder role and held on to the ball well.

His distribution was decent, showing why he was on the books of Scottish giants Celtic at some point.

Warriors captain Knowledge Musona may have stood in the way of the country`s victory through his indiscretion with set pieces.

He was taking all corners and free kicks, despite the country having players who can naturally strike the ball with ease like Bruce Kangwa and Onismo Bhasera.

Through open play, the country`s opportunities were far and in between but Zimbabwe had more set-pieces which means that with more efficiency and a clinical approach, they could have hurt Senegal.

Prince Dube did not get enough supply, save for two attempts to turn the Senegalese defense he was quiet.

He was replaced for Tino Kadewere of Olympic Lyon, he too, was not effective.

Ismael Wadi, the former Caps United winger was in crisp form as he took the game to the Senegalese.

Fans could not help but wonder how the game would have turned out, had Khama Billiat not retired early?

Zimbabwe maintained tactical discipline through players like Gerald Takwara, who contained Senegal`s threat from the right.

FC Platinum goalkeeper Petros Mhari had a performance of his lifetime, as he saved 1v1 situations on more than three occasions, this is before other saves he made.

Kelvin Madzongwe who was the brilliant player in the holding midfield position was to become the villain in the final ten seconds when he handled the ball.

Senegal were awarded a penalty which Sadio Mane cooly converted.

The referee signaled the end of the match immediately after the penalty.

Zimbabwe could have gotten a point, and it was appearing like a forgone conclusion.

However, the football goods had other plans.

After 92 minutes of toil, hard work, focus the team conceded a penalty in the final seconds and the point many had settled for was lost.

There is hope that if today`s form is maintained, both Malawi and Guinea did not appear stronger than Zimbabwe.