BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
The Zimbabwe senior men soccer team made a silent entry back into the country yesterday afternoon following a disgraceful defeat to football minnows Somalia in a 2022 Fifa World Cup preliminary round qualifier in Djibouti on Thursday night.
Nobody except this journalist and a couple of Zifa officials showed up at Robert Mugabe International Airport to welcome Joey Antipas and his visibly discomfited troops.
However, the team has the opportunity to redeem itself and save the tie in the second leg set for the National Sports Stadium on Tuesday.
Antipas, who had an inauspicious start to his tenure as the Warriors coach, is confident that his charges can overturn the narrow deficit and progress to the first round of the Qatar World Cup qualifiers.
“Definitely not the result we envisaged, but it happens in football. All I can say is that we will try to get down to work tomorrow [today] and Monday [tomorrow] to try and rectify where we went wrong,” Antipas told Standardsport upon the team’s arrival at
“One thing I can say is that you will see a different team out there on Tuesday and we are going to go out there and get a result that is going to make us qualify for the next stage.
“I believe if our guys can step up the game and produce the performances that they usually produce, then we have a good chance of going through.
“However, we cannot take Somalia for granted because they are not a bad side. You can see that they have been playing together for some time.”
But losing to Somalia, a team ranked 202 in the world and 98 rungs below Zimbabwe, is a difficult thing to stomach for any of the country’s football fans.
Before the Zimbabwe game, Somalia had last tasted victory on the international scene in January 2009 in 1-0 friendly win over Tanzania.
Since then, they lost 25 of the 26 matches they played, recording a single draw in a World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia in 2011.
Antipas attributed the defeat to playing away as well as lack of training.
“Playing away from home no matter whom you play is difficult. And also we faced challenges because the Fifa period of international window which started on September 2-10 did not allow us to train since we were travelling. At least now we can train for two
days, it will help and I think we are good to go to qualify,” he said
After the Zimbabwe strike force was clearly lacking bite against Somalia and defensive shortcoming exposed in some instances, Antipas and his technical team are contemplating making some changes.
“We are making one or two changes. We would know about that tomorrow, but definitely we need to work on a change defensively and also a change in attack,” Antipas said.
The Zimbabwe attack led by Evans Rusike, Admiral Muskwe, Knox Mutizwa, Terrence Dzvukamanja and Kuda Mahachi, among others, clearly struggled against Somalia’s resolute defending.
Even the central defence pair of new captain Alec Mudimu and Peter Muduhwa looked fragile each time it was tested, raising questions on why Teenage Hadebe was made to sit out the match.
Danny Phiri’s positional and defensive discipline was dearly missed in the middle of the park as France-based midfielder Marshall Munetsi and Thabani Kamusoko failed to complement each other.
The two were actually competing to go forward, leaving the defence exposed.
It is interesting to see what changes Antipas is going to make to avoid an unthinkable preliminary round exit of the World Cup qualifiers.
Zimbabwe need to beat Somalia by a two-goal margin to progress to the next stage of the qualification process.