Norman Mapeza was seconds away from making history at the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals in Cameroon.
The former Warriors captain could have been the first ever Zimbabwean coach to keep a clean sheet at the continental extravaganza, had Kelvin Madzongwe not recklessly committed to block a shot and conceded a last gasp penalty against Senegal, which Sadio Mane expertly-converted.
That penalty and ultimately the result of the game really hurt, but it reminded football-loving Zimbabweans, especially those who idolize Mapeza, that the former Galatasaray midfielder knows how to put in place a watertight defence.
The Warriors’ diffensive display at the Stade Omnisports in Bafoussam that afternoon was brilliant and perhaps mirrored Mapeza’s ability during his playing days as a defender-cum-anchorman.
Five months after the disappointment of that loss to Senegal, Mapeza is still proving to be a master of defensive organization.
His resurgent FC Platinum has not conceded a goal in the last nine league matches.
In fact, the Platinum miners’ rock-solid defence has not been breached in 16 of the total 22 league matches they have played this season.
So what is the secret to Mapeza having the meanest backline in the Premier Soccer League?
“When FC Platinum started the season, winning I think 1 in 5 if I’m not mistaken, if u watched closely, Mapeza was trying to find combinations, with much emphasis on the defensive shape,” explained performance analyst Kudzai Chitima.
“They thrive on methodical buildups and because of the departure of some of the key players like Madzongwe, who was the link between defensive and attacking transitions, it was difficult at start.
When he finally got it right, you can see how the build ups from the back are coming up, transitions, when attacking and defending are seamless,” he added.
Wether or not Mapeza is a defensive coach like Diego Simeone, is a debate that can go on until the cows come home, but if defence is the best form of attack, then he attacks best.