‘Let’s build on positives’

DESPITE the early exit at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), Warriors coach Norman Mapeza, pictured, feels the future of the national team is secure only if they can build on the positives they got from the tournament.

Mapeza was mandated to preside over Warriors’ participation at the Afcon tournament — but just like his predecessors in the previous four tournaments — he failed to steer the team to the knockout stage following defeats to Senegal and Malawi.

While the Warriors rounded off their tournament with a 2-1 win over Guinea, it was rather too little too late as they finished bottom of Group B with three points.

The Warriors have never reached the knockout stage of the Afcon tournament after all their five appearances ended in group stages. Zimbabwe made their Afcon debut in 2004 under Sunday Chidzambwa.

Mapeza became the fourth Zimbabwean coach to fail to steer the Warriors to the knockout stage of the tournament following unsuccessful stints by Chidzambwa in 2004 and 2019 while Charles Mhaluri and Callisto Pasuwa also failed at the 2006 and 2017 editions respectively.

And with Zimbabwe now shifting their attention to 2023 Afcon qualifiers starting in March, Mapeza said their elimination should not derail efforts to assemble a competitive side going forward.

“We know everyone is disappointed that we couldn’t progress to the next round and it’s understandable for our football fans and everyone to feel that way. 

“We are all very disappointed like everybody else for coming back home in the first round,” Mapeza told the Daily News soon after arriving from Cameroon yesterday.

“We always play to win and we have no excuse to give as we all want to get the good results that can make everyone happy. 

“We didn’t get good results but through the continued support from all football stakeholders, we can try work hard to rectify some of the mistakes we made.

“I think there are things we did better but also we have a lot of areas to improve. Overall there were so many positives that we get from all games we played that I think we can use to build up our team going forward.”

Mapeza’s assistant Taurai Mangwiro weighed in saying the team takes collective responsibility for the results obtained.

“We are all disappointed that we couldn’t progress to the next round of the tournament but we wouldn’t want to doubt the commitment of the players,”Mangwiro said.

“They did try to put in their best performance and it was very unfortunate that we couldn’t hang in there especially in the game against Senegal where we lost the game in the last few seconds of the match.

“In our match against Malawi, we had taken the lead but we failed to defend our lead and allowed them to get back into the game due to some errors we made.

“But in the game of football, we win and lose as a team and we take full responsibility for the results we got as a team.

“We wouldn’t want to look into the individual errors but we work and collectively accept that we failed as a team and try to work around that so that we improve ourselves going forward.”

Veteran defender Onismor Bhasera believes the team needs a bit of patience as they are in a rebuilding process with the emergence of several young players in the squad.

“I do think that this team is a work in progress with the new young players coming in, we got something to build on and it’s a process that needs the support of everyone,” he said.

“We lost games especially against Senegal, I do believe we had worked hard and we only needed a bit of luck to hold on but we ended up losing. We will take the positives going forward and with everyone’s support we will bounce back strong.”

Cloud Fusire