After nine months of waiting, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić will finally take charge of his first competitive game at the helm of the country’s senior men’s national soccer team this week.
By Lawrence Tichaona Mangenje
The Croat was unveiled by the Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA board in February but owing to the novel Covid-19 pandemic, his first cut-throat assignment is now penciled for this coming Thursday.
Zimbabwe take on the Desert Foxes of Algeria in two blockbuster AFCON Group H qualifiers- first at the Stade du Juillet 1962 in Algiers before hosting them at the reprieved National Sports Stadium four days later.
Unlike in the poorly-planned international friendly against Malawi last month, Logarušić will have most of the players who form the core of the national team, including captain Knowledge Musona.
Playing the defending African champions twice in one week is arguably the outspoken tactician’s biggest challenge in his coaching career, which has seen him in Sudan, Kenya and Ghana.
Interestingly, he will re-write the history books whether he wins or loses on Thursday.
Should he lead his troops to victory over the Riyad Mahrez-captained Foxes, Zimbabwe would have become the first team in over two years to defeat the sizzling-hot Algerian side, who last tasted defeat in a football match when they were edged 0-1 by Benin in October 2018 at the Stade de l’Amitié in Cotonou.
Should we fall to Djamel Belmadi’s men, Logarušić would become the first Warriors coach in history to lose to the North African giants, who have never beaten Zimbabwe.
Perhaps the biggest question on every Warriors fan’s lips is who will the Croat’s starting eleven on Thursday comprise of?
Between the posts, it looks like a settled issue- Tatenda Mkuruva’s anticipated Warriors return hit a snag as he and defender Tendai Jirira were not cleared by the United States government to travel to Zimbabwe, so they have been ruled out.
That leaves Baroka’s Elvis Chipepeze as the somewhat obvious choice in goal while big Talbert Shumba deputizes.
In central defence, Logarušić will most likely start with the ever-reliable pair of Alec Mudimu and Teenage Hadebe, who have never let the Warriors concede more than one goal in a single game while playing together.
One of the biggest selection headaches the coach might have is in the left-back position. There is Devine Lunga, while the availability of the England-based pair of Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura and Notts County’s Adam Chicksen, who will most likely make it this time, might pose a threat for the Golden Arrows man.
Whether to go for the tried and tested Lunga, who reduced Liverpool star Mohamed Salah to just an ordinary football player at AFCON 2019 or try the Chicksen or Zemura experiment, is a decision the coach will make come Thursday.
The ‘untouchable’ defensive midfield pair of Marvelous Nakamba and Marshall Munetsi will probably keep their places together in the middle of the park with Musona and Khama Billiat, while it remains to be seen whether unattached Ovidy Karuru, who usually completes that medley, will be thrown into the fray.
In Tino Kadewere and Prince Dube, Logarušić has two in-form strikers at his disposal. Quite-frankly, he might just toss a coin to determine who leads the Warriors attack.
Over to you coach Logarušić, the football-loving nation awaits!