HARARE - Tomorrow's 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Group L qualifier against Swaziland presents coach Kalisto Pasuwa another chance to make right the wrongs of Good Friday’s disappointing draw.
On Friday, the Warriors put up a thoroughly dispiriting show that would have surely left Pasuwa himself bereft of ideas and with a lot of thinking going into tomorrow’s crucial tie at the National Sports Stadium, in Harare.
The former Dynamos coach would probably be the first man to admit that the Warriors simply did not show any desire to win and would need to improve.
To be fair, Swaziland were outstanding, laying down a marker as to why they lead Group L.
The Warriors deserved nothing really. They were desperately poor, devoid of inspiration, lacking passion and intensity.
In the first half, at least, going behind in the second minute is no way to start a match, and Zimbabwe could not get the ball and, when they did, could do nothing with it. Yet Sihlangu attacked with pace and energy.
The first half was stripped bare of excitement for Pasuwa’s men and there were 45 minutes gone when Zimbabwe finally got a chance at goal.
KV Oostende forward Knowledge Musona won a corner and quickly took it before Swaziland goalkeeper Nhlanhla Gwebu could organise his defence.
The result was a priceless own goal by Swaziland defender Njabulo Ndlovu.
Understandably, the second-half saw Zimbabwe probing and the numbers — shots at goal, possession — gave a false sense of how close this match was.
The Warriors did start the second half more brightly and exerted some pressure with Musona cutting in from the left to send a shot that Swaziland goalkeeper Gwebu did well to parry out for a corner.
From the resultant corner, Zimbabwe almost scored through Sparta Prague defender Costa Nhamoinesu’s header which was cleared off the line.
But still Swaziland threatened, even they found Zimbabwe goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva equal to the task and the Dynamos shot- stopper saved the Warriors from a humiliating defeat in the dying moments of the game to deny Sihlangu from a free kick deep in stoppage time.
Anyway, enough of that unpleasantness.
Pasuwa needs to make some bold decisions for tomorrow’s game.
In Mkuruva, Pasuwa has a goalkeeper who has continued to punch above his weight and in the two qualifiers he has played in the campaign so far — against Malawi and Swaziland — he has shown that he is up to the task.
Is Erick Chipeta — a centre back by trade — the best option in the right fullback position? Against Swaziland he did well defensively but added little offensively.
A natural fullback like Hardlife Zvirekwi could offer the Warriors more going forward, and moving Chipeta back to his preferred centre half position — in place of Elisha Muroiwa — to partner Nhamoinesu could solidify the team’s defence.
In midfield, Pasuwa might need to sacrifice Chicken Inn’s Danny Phiri and give Vitesse Arnhem midfielder Marvellous Nakamba a chance to show what he can do.
In Nakamba, we have a player who has so far made 26 starts in 30 games for his Dutch side — the second highest for any outfield player behind Georgian attacking midfielder Valeri Kazaishvili for the club — and in terms of match fitness he is way ahead of Phiri.
Besides being short of match fitness, Phiri was duplicating roles with skipper Willard Katsande.
The two (Katsande and Phiri) did well to shield the defence but neither could go forward to build up the attack when required.
Despite being Zimbabwe’s most consistent goal scorer in the last two or three years Musona was shockingly stationed out on the left wing, to accommodate Matthew Rusike and Cuthbert Malajila — who played as twin strikers.
Malajila struggled to exert any meaningful influence on the game and honestly, he is a player short of confidence having been in and out of Mamelodi Sundowns starting line-up for the whole of this season.
Recalling Golden Arrows winger Kuda Mahachi and having Khama Billiat on either flank — play Musona through the middle partnering either Nyasha Mushekwi or Matthew Rusike — could give the Warriors width and pace on the break.
Maritzburg United forward Evans Rusike is another option upfront should Pasuwa decide otherwise, but a balance between the strike force and midfield is an area where the Warriors coach would need to pay special attention to.
Swaziland have shown that they are no pushovers, and tactically they are sound and have shown that they are a side on the rise. This is the same side that humbled Guinea away from home.
Zimbabwe’s lucky escape on Good Friday should serve as a reminder that Pasuwa and his men need to dig deeper for them to claim all the three points that are at stake in tomorrow’s encounter.
The one-all draw left Group L wide open after Guinea and Malawi drew 0-0 in Conakry on the same date.
Zimbabwe and Swaziland have five points each, while Guinea and Malawi have two points apiece.
A lot needs to be done as after tomorrow’s encounter Zimbabwe host Malawi on the weekend of June 3-5 before concluding their qualifying campaign with a potentially banana skin tie for the Warriors against Guinea in Conakry on the weekend of September 2-4.