On paper, the two AFCON qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia, slated for next month, seem like winnable battles.
By Lawrence Tichaona Mangenje
The two neighbours stand in the way of Zimbabwe qualifying for their third consecutive Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Perhaps main reason why many local football fans are not losing sleep over the two matches as they did ahead of the Algeria double-header last year, is that the Warriors are second in Group H behind the Desert Foxes and will be more determined to finish the job and book a place at the continental spectacle in Cameroon.
Another probable cause might be the fact that none of the two sides managed to beat Zimbabwe in the corresponding fixtures- a goalless draw with the Zebras in Harare and an impressive Khama Billiat-powered 2-1 victory over Chipolopolo in Zambia.
Of importance to note though, is the fact that the person who was in the Warriors dugout then is not the one who is there now.
Joey ‘Mafero’ Antipas oversaw those two games on an interim basis before he was replaced by firebrand Croat Zdravko Logarušić.
Loga, as many Zimbabweans prefer to call the 55-year-old former Sudan coach, has not tasted victory as Zimbabwe coach since his appointment in February.
He has taken charge of five competitive encounters, lost four and drew one.
Logarušić came under the microscope for the manner in which local-based Warriors stars bend down for their opponents at CHAN 2021 and then provided a catalogue of excuses, some sensible some not, but next month’s games will afford him a chance to right his wrongs once and for all.
He can do so and become the first foreign coach to lead Zimbabwe to Africa’s biggest soccer showpiece but there are things which need to be straightened first.
The outspoken coach needs to put his house in order as far as preparing for games in concerned.
He was heavily-criticised for spending more time on playing friendly games against PSL teams instead of perfecting tactics and acumen during the build-up to CHAN and that was a contributing factor to the dismal display at the biannual showpiece.
Also, Logarušić needs to be on the same page with his assistants.
Never mind reports that Lloyd Chitembwe sees him in an inharmonious manner; that is a different episode on a different series but the fact that Loga did override some names chosen by Lodza and Tonderai Ndiraya in the CHAN squad and replaced them with his own, portrays a vivid picture of lack of trust between the head coach and his assistants, a blatantly-unwanted ingredient in football management.
The countdown has begun, March we await.
Go Warriors Go!