Nooij begins Taifa Stars transformation

HARARE - “I think Nigeria have an obligation to go to the World Cup. They have a good squad of wonderful players. You are two points behind Tunisia right now but that is not a big deal. We can try to beat Tunisia otherwise, it will be a draw and then you can beat Kenya by two goals and qualify.”

These were the words of Dutchman Mart Nooij on 5 November 2009 when he was still the coach of the Mozambique national football team.

At the point the Black Mambas were competing in Group B of the third and final qualifying round for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

True to Nooij’s word, in the last game Mozambique beat Tunisia 1–0 in a surprising victory that stopped the Carthage Eagles from qualifying paving the way for Nigeria to be in South Africa.

During that period, the Dutchman had turned Mozambique into a formidable side on the continent as they went on to qualify for the 2010 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Angola.

Under the Nooij, Mozambique lost only once in 13 games at their home ground in Maputo.

Nooij is now the man in charge of the Tanzania national team after he was appointed last Saturday to take over from Kim Poulsen.

Tanzania and Zimbabwe have been paired against each other in the 2015 Afcon qualifiers first round knockout stage.

The Warriors travel for the first leg on the weekend of 16-18 this month while the second leg is scheduled for the National Sports Stadium on the weekend on May 30 and June 1.

Just like the Warriors, the Taifa Stars have been underperforming by failing to qualifying for major international and continental competitions.

Tanzania have never qualified for the World Cup and their one and only appearance at the Afcon finals came way back at the 1980 tournament hosted by Nigeria.

They filed to progress from the group stages after losing to the hosts and Egypt before drawing with Ivory Coast.

Even in their regional competition the Cecafa Cup, the Taifa Stars have not fared well winning the competition only three times in the 34 editions they have entered.

On paper, Tanzania (122) might seem like the underdog going into this tie with the Warriors (98), who are ranked higher on the Fifa World Rankings.

The highest ranking Tanzania has ever achieved since Fifa introduced the system in December 19992 was 116 in February this year.

However, all that is history going into clash with the Warriors as Nooij will e hoping to work his magic with the Taifa Stars just like what he did with Mozambique.

Dutch coaches have always had a fairytale love affair with African national teams going back to the days of Clemens Westerhof and Jo Bonfrere when they lead Nigeria to various successes on the global stage.

Nooij’s track record with Mozambique is notably outstanding and his coming on board the Taifa Stars is likely to be a problem for the Warriors.

Dutch coaches are sort after world over. Just look at how Manchester United have pursued Louis Van Gaal to be the permanent replacement for David Moyes.

Nooij just like all Dutch coaches has a reputation of paying little attention to star players and emphasise a team work ethic.

Tico Tico is the most capped Mozambique international of all time but he was never treated with kid gloves by the no-nonsense Nooij.

The 59-year-old will not have to deal with players with huge egos in the Tanzania dressing room where he will work with mostly local based players.

While the Warriors boost a number of European and South African-based players it will be unreasonable for coach Ian Gorowa and his players to think that this tie is now a foregone conclusion.

After failing to qualify for the previous four editions of the Afcon finals, Zimbabwe desperately need to be in Morocco next year.

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