Warriors coach, Kalisto Pasuwa was left a figure of frustration after seeing his team making another slow start in their Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group B football clash with Senegal, where Zimbabwe lost 2-0.
BY Kevin Mapasure in Franceville, Gabon
Pasuwa was puzzled by the nervous start by his troops, which saw the Lions of Teranga scoring the two goals within the first 15 minutes of the game.
He thought the team would have benefited from confidence gained in the 2-2 draw against Algeria in the first match last Sunday, but they were caught cold and exhibited jitters early on.
To their credit, they managed to recover and later grew into the game and reduced Senegal’s dominance.
Senegal, however, continued to create the better of chances and could have bagged half a dozen goals had it not been for the brilliance of goalkeeper, Tatenda Mukuruva.
“We lost it during that early period, where we were caught cold,” Pasuwa said.
“We did not impose ourselves well at that start, we were a bit nervous and they took advantage and punished us. We improved as the game progressed, but it was difficult to recover playing such a team. It is a lesson learnt for us, but the good part is we are still in it, it’s not yet over. We have to fight against Tunisia and we know a win can take us through.”
The former Warriors midfielder said that his team lacked bravery against the physically-imposing Senegalese.
“We struggled to keep the ball, we always gave away possession easily. The boys were chickening away from receiving the ball in the middle of the park and it’s one area that we need to work on.”
Pasuwa insisted he remained confident his charges would progress.
For that to happen, Zimbabwe will need an outright win against Tunisia and hope Senegal do not lose to Algeria.
Pasuwa said the big task was to lift the boys’ morale after the Thursday slump.
“After the match, all the boys were down, so I tried to lift the mood and remind them that it’s not yet over. We came here to play at least three games, the first result has kept us in. So I will try to instil it in them that there is everything to fight for, we have not suddenly become a bad lot.”
As the post-mortem ensued on why the Warriors were so inept against Senegal, questions have been raised on why Danny Phiri had been condemned to the bench having played a good game against Algeria in the first match.
Pasuwa explained the defensive midfielder’s exclusion in the Senegal match was not a tactical move, but it was a forced one.
“It was unfortunate that Phiri was struggling with a knee injury,” he said.
“He would have been vital for such a physical game, he doesn’t shy away from tackles and he is a fighter.”
Zimbabwe’s midfield pairing of captain, Willard Katsande and Marvellous Nakamba struggled under pressure from Senegal’s pressing game.
Another injury casualty, Knowledge Musona, had a scan on Wednesday and the medical team has given him a chance to recover for the crucial Tunisia match, which will shape the Warriors’ future at this tournament.
Musona had a hamstring injury in the match against Algeria and the medical team has been working to get him fit for the Monday match.
With just one point on the board, the Warriors need an outright win for them to stand a chance of qualifying to the next round of the competition.
But they will also need a favour from Senegal, who need to avoid defeat against Algeria for Zimbabwe to have a good chance of qualifying.
The challenge is for Zimbabwe to complete their own job against Tunisia before they can think about what Senegal can do for them.