The Sunday News
Langton Nyakwenda, Harare Bureau
AFTER sobering up from what would have been the most embarrassing moment in his otherwise illustrious coaching career, interim Warriors coach Joey Antipas, now wants things done better.
The two-time championship winning coach was a few minutes away from becoming probably the worst ever national team gaffer when Zimbabwe almost bowed out of the World Cup qualifiers at the hands of bottom ranked Somalia at the National Sports on September 10.
Without regular players who steered the country to the African Cup of Nations Cup finals in Egypt, Zimbabwe lost 0-1 in the preliminary round first leg in Djibouti, before staging a late show in Harare to win 3-1 on the day. The Warriors went through courtesy of a 3-2 on aggregate score. The Warriors didn’t train before the first leg and just like a boozers’ team, the players only met a few hours before kick-off.
But that is water under the bridge now, and Antipas wants a fresh start. He begins his new lease of life this afternoon as he attempts to guide Zimbabwe to a fifth African Nations Championships (Chan) finals appearance. The Warriors play Lesotho in the final round first leg qualifier at the National Sports this afternoon, with the return leg set for October 18 in Maseru.
“That Somalia game is past now, that was real close but the good thing is we have qualified for the group stages. What is needed from now going forward is proper planning because failing to plan is planning to fail,” says Antipas.
After the Chan qualifier against Lesotho, Zimbabwe will play Botswana and Zambia in African Cup of Nations qualifiers on November 11 and 19 respectively.
“We now need to all pull in one direction, and that begins with 100 per cent effort in this Chan adventure, then we turn our attention to the upcoming African Cup of Nations qualifiers.”
Antipas has suffered another major setback though as he will be missing several key players due to various reasons when the Warriors tackle the Crocodiles of Lesotho this afternoon. The Premiership’s in form striker Evans Katema has been ruled out after dislocating his elbow last Thursday. Also out through injuries is the duo of big defender Lawrence Mhlanga and Yadah Stars winger Leeroy Mavhunga.
The Premiership’s best player Joel “Josta” Ngodzo, Harare City’s revived midfielder William Manondo and Hwange defender Nomore Chinyerere do not have valid passports.
“Besides those players, everyone else is okay. We can come up with a team that can do the job,” Antipas said.
Dynamos goalkeeper Simba Chinani has been given the nod ahead of Highlanders’ skipper Ariel Sibanda with Partson Jaure marshaling a defence that will also have Ian Nekati, Peter Muduhwa and Xolani Ndlovu of Chicken Inn.
Prince Dube will lead the Warriors frontline, flanked by Phineas Bamusi and Valentine Kadonzvo.
Zimbabwe have lost just once to Lesotho in the last 10 years with the Crocodiles’ sole victory coming in a friendly play at the Setsoto on November 8, 2017. Odds are heavily staked against the visitors but Antipas is refusing to be flattered by history.
“I don’t look at history; but prefer to look at the assignment at hand. This game is a new ball game altogether, “It’s a new challenge. Lesotho are a strong side, and we have a game on our hands,” said Antipas.
Lesotho clinched a 6-2 aggregate victory over South Africa in the previous round and their South African coach Thabo Senong has been beaming with confidence ahead of today’s clash.
“The good thing about football is that every match gives you a chance to start afresh. You cannot really focus on the past, but you can always use it to get statistics,” Senong told cafonline.com last Friday.
“They (Zimbabwe) also have a chance if they prepare well. It will go to the team that wants it more on the day. Our focus has been on improving our weaknesses and hopefully we can give Zimbabwe a run for their money on the day,” Senong said.
The Chan finals will be held in Cameroon in January next year.
Zimbabwe probable line up: S. Chinani, I. Nekati, P. Jaure, P. Muduhwa, X. Ndlovu, T. Chipunza, N. Tigere, P. Bamusi, V. Kadonzvo, N. Masuku, P. Dube