RAHMAN Gumbo steps into the National Sports Stadium on Sunday with a realistic chance of etching his name in the ranks of respected local coaches when the Warriors take on Nigeria in a World Cup
Not only will Gumbo have to come up with the right formula for victory, but he will also be expected to make some bold decisions. It is the ability to make bold decisions that Gumbo has to prove by excluding some geriatrics from the first line-up as well as the substitutes’ bench that will gain him a lot of respect.
Gumbo must include young and locally based players whose entry into the national team is long overdue. Cephas Chimedza, Honour Gombami, Raymond Undi, Method Mwanjali and Ronald Sibanda have proved during friendly matches that they deserve chances in the “real” Warriors’ team.
Ageing players such as Harlington Shereni, George Mbwando, Kaitano Tembo and Adam Ndlovu have seen their days in the team and must now pave way for new blood.
“We will come up with the final team before the match, after considering all the players in camp,” Gumbo said on Wednesday.
The debate over this matter aside, whatever approach Gumbo will apply – whether he will stick with the old guard or include some rookies – the whole nation will be under no illusions about the quality of Zimbabwe’s opponents.
The Super Eagles of Nigeria arrived in Harare yesterday having lost only to Angola in the southern Africa region. The hopes of the former African champions will ride on the artistry of captain and playmaker Austin Jay-Jay Okocha.
The Warriors on the other hand will as usual have their hopes pinned on the speed, skill and precision of captain Peter Ndlovu. Although not as highly famed as the mercurial Okocha, Ndlovu, now plying his trade at Sundowns in South Africa, has what it takes to match the stars on the African continent.
However, Gumbo’s success on Sunday largely hinges on the ability of his midfield department to not only contain Okocha and his colleagues upfront, John Utaka and Yakubu Aiyegbeni, but also on an attacking game. The simple trick will be to win the ball in the crucial midfield department and, instead of having a defensive mentality that would make them simply try to clear away the ball, launch coordinated attacks.
In the South Africa-based duo of Tinashe Nengomasha and Esrom Nyandoro, Gumbo has the men to graft in the midfield department. Both players can also be effective in attack. Much will depend as well on their partners in that department, as Gumbo is likely to employ the 4-4-2 playing formation.
Joel Luphahla looks the clear candidate for the right attacking linkman position, while Edzai Kasinauyo could be given the left-side slot. Failure by the midfield to play the ball and dictate the pace would inevitably mean relentless pressure on the Warriors’ defence, posing the risk of conceding goals both in open play and from set pieces.
The tried and failed combination of Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari is likely to be employed upfront, but with a high possibility that the latter, who returns after a long absence from the team, would be itching to reclaim his place and respect. Both strikers are good goal-poachers and can also create chances for others.
Options are also plenty for Gumbo in defence but the coach would however do well by making the bold decision of dropping Tembo and then partner Zvenyika Makonese with Dumisani Mpofu in the centre.
Another bold decision would be needed to give Chimedza the nod ahead of Shereni and Charles Yohanne. The same applies for the right flank where Mwanjali deserves a chance ahead of Mbwando and Bekithemba Ndlovu.
The vociferous capacity crowd that is set to throng the giant stadium will at the end of the day either salute Gumbo or curse him, depending largely on his ability to make bold decisions.