The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
IT has been ten games in charge for Zdravko Logarusic as Zimbabwe senior men’s football team coach, yet the Croatian has just won a single match, drawn four and lost five.
Logarusic’s win came against Botswana in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier played in Francistown when the Warriors defeated the Zebras 1-0 to book a place at next year’s Afcon finals in Cameroon. Zimbabwe came back with three losses at the African Nations Championship with his other defeats coming in the Afcon qualifier against Algeria and Zambia.
The Croatian has come under heavy scrutiny at the 20th edition of the Cosafa Cup where Zimbabwe have drawn their opening two fixtures. Zimbabwe played out a goalless draw against Mozambique before they came from two goals down to draw 2-2 against Malawi.
As the most successful team at the Cosafa having won the regional competition a record six times, Zimbabwe are under pressure as they collide with 2015 champions Namibia at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Gqeberha today.
The Warriors looked dead and buried after Khuda Muyaba and Schumacher Kuwali had put the Flames ahead.
Blessing Sarupinda and Patrick Musaka saved the day for Zimbabwe with second half goals.
Zimbabwe are third in Group B with two points, behind Senegal and Namibia. The Warriors can no longer afford a draw and badly need a win against the Brave Warriors this afternoon if they are to stand a chance of making it to the semi-finals. Only the top two teams in each group make it to the last four.
Ovidy Karuru, the Zimbabwe captain at the Cosafa tournament was outstanding against Malawi, which saw him walk away with the Man of the Match accolade. Karuru and the Zimbabwean team have to be at their best to conquer Namibia who are fired up after they beat Senegal 2-1 in their opening match of the tournament last Wednesday.
Failure to win against Namibia will make things even trickier for Zimbabwe since their last group match is against Senegal on Tuesday. Senegal recorded their first win in the Cosafa tournament when they saw off Mozambique 1-0 on Friday.
Meanwhile, Cosafa organisers have introduced several measures to assist teams with a compacted fixture list. A change in format to 10 teams in two pools of five has added an additional match to the tournament for all teams and opens the potential of player fatigue.
Teams will be able to add an additional three players to their squads from their third game of the competition to lessen the load.
All teams in the competition named an initial 20 players in their squad but could also travel with five on “stand-by” in case of Covid-19 infections. Three of those five will now be added, should they choose to do so, from the third fixture onwards in a move that has been welcomed by the participants.
“Player welfare is of great importance to us, and we are very aware of the impact that adding an additional game to the competition would have on the teams. It was therefore decided to allow teams to bring in three additional players from their third game onwards to alleviate this situation,” Sue Destombes, the Cosafa general secretary said.
Cosafa had already decided before the tournament started that nations could use up to five substitutes in matches, as per Fifa and Confederation of African Football regulations that are in place until the end of 2022.
Zimbabwe have Xolani Ndlovu, Wilmore Chimbetu, Nelson Chadya, Emmanuel Mandiranga and Leeroy Antonio on standby back at home. Wellington Mpandare, the Warriors team manager said they will only call up for reinforcements if any of players already in South Africa test positive for Covid-19.— @Mdawini_29