ZIFA’s technical team will meet this week to review Zimbabwe’s disastrous campaign at the ongoing African Nations Champions (Chan) campaign in Rwanda, where a decision will be made on coach Kalitso Pasuwa’s future.
Zimbabwe lost the first two group matches against neighbours Zambia and Mali by an identical one-nil scoreline before drawing one-all with lightweights Uganda in the last match.
The uninspiring performance by the Warriors ensured that the team returned home early. They returned in two batches on Thursday and Friday.
Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa could not be drawn into commenting about Pasuwa’s future yesterday, saying a position would be taken after the meeting.
“For now, we cannot say much, but the technical meeting next week will address all these concerns,” Chiyangwa said.
Pasuwa is yet to sign a contract with Zifa, but he was given a brand new car ahead of the Chan tournament. He has also been paid outstanding salaries.
The former Dynamos mentor has been accused of employing poor tactics and keeping his best players on the bench until the deadrubber against Uganda, leading to the Warriors’ poor performances.
However, veteran coach Misheck Chidzambwa has leapt to Pasuwa’s defence, saying he was not to blame for the poor results, as the Warriors did not prepare well for the tournament.
Zimbabwe did not play any friendly matches ahead of the tournament and Pasuwa had complained that lack of game time would affect his players.
“The coach has to know where his players are good at during the preparation stage,” Chidzambwa said.
“We needed at least two friendlies. But the players were just a disappointment. They failed to rise to the occasion.”
Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches’ Association president Bheki Nyoni also said Pasuwa had acquitted himself well by leading the Warriors to the Chan finals.
He said the national team did not play badly in Rwanda despite its early elimination from the tournament meant only for locally-based players.
“This is a 54-nation tournament,” Nyoni said.
“Who was in the finals among the other 15 countries? It’s us.
“This is a clear indication that Pasuwa and his boys did well.
“In that group, Zimbabwe is the only team that got into the opponents’ goal area more than any other team.
“If we had prepared well and fine-tuned our finishing, we could have topped the group.”
He said Zambia were always tough opponents for Zimbabwe and Mali was also a top team in Africa.
“The other thing people should understand is that Zambia has always been our toughest opponent and we booted them out in the last edition,” Nyoni said.
“This same applies to Mali, whom we beat in the quarter-finals of the last edition. Obviously, both teams were always going to come hard on us this time around.”
He said Zifa had also let Pasuwa down by failing to organise friendly matches for the Warriors
“Pasuwa had asked for a six-week training camp, but because there was no money, the Warriors ended up camping for only four weeks,” he said.
“Within those four weeks, a lot happened that disturbed the flow of preparations, starting with the firing and rehiring of Pasuwa, as well as the Christmas and New Year holidays where players were given time off.”
Nyoni said Zimbabwe’s plans were also disrupted by the injury of Warriors captain Danny “Deco” Phiri on the eve of the tournament.
“People should understand that if you lose a player like Deco in your team, it might have a huge bearing on performances,” he added.
“Deco is one person who can command the team and looking at his performance, he is the only local player who plays in the Warriors Afcon team of foreign-based players.
“That means a lot about his work rate. Again, Pasuwa lost one of his trusted centrebacks, Teenage Hadebe, through injury, and Evans Rusike, who joined the South African league, having been part of the qualifiers as the main striker.
“It is not easy for a coach to start a competitive match with a centreback pairing that is playing together for the first time.
“Elisha Muroiwa and Reuben Mhlanga never played together in a competitive match, but started in the Zambia match, and to make matters worse in the following game Pasuwa had another centreback pairing of Mhlanga and Stephen Makatuka. So it was not easy.”
Zimbabwe have qualified for all Chan finals since the tournament’s inception in 2009 when it was hosted by Ivory Coast.
The Warriors drew all their Group B matches (Ghana 2-2, the Democratic Republic of Congo 1-1 and Libya 0-0) and failed to proceed to the quarter-finals.
In the second edition of the tournament, Zimbabwe was in Group B together with Niger, Ghana and South Africa.
The Warriors lost to Niger (1-0), beat Ghana (1-0), before losing to South Africa (1-2), which meant they were eliminated in the group stages.
The third edition of the competition was hosted by South Africa in 2014 where the Warriors performed well under the guidance of Ian Gorowa.
For the third time, Zimbabwe was in Group B together with Morocco, whom they held to a nil-all draw and followed it up with another similar result against Uganda, before edging Burkina Faso 1-0 to sneak into the quarter-finals of the tournament. The Warriors went on to beat Mali 2-1 in the quarter-finals to book a place in the semis against Libya, who knocked them out after a penalty shootout.
The Warriors finished fourth after falling to Nigeria in the third and fourth place encounter with a 1-0 score line.