ZIMBABWE’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualification campaign ended on a disappointing note with a tepid performance after they lost to Zambia in a final Group H qualifier at the Nations Sports Stadium last night.
Having already booked their place at the Afcon finals set for Cameroon in January next year after beating Botswana in a penultimate game on Thursday, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić roped in fringe players into the squad to prove themselves.
Logarušić made nine changes to the squad that started in Francistown with Onismor Bhasera and Ovidy Karuru the only players retaining their positions.
Young Spanish goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, Victor Kamhuka and Last Jesi were all handed their debuts while Tanaka Chinyahara also earned his first cap after coming in as a second-half substitute.
The coach must have been disappointed by some schoolboy blunders by his charges, who appeared as if they were suffering from a hangover of last week’s qualifying celebrations.
One such mistake ended in the opener when defender Alec Mudimu hesitated to clear the ball and the dangerous Patson Daka sneaked from behind the defence and fired through the legs of goalkeeper Mapisa on 20th minute.
So blunt and lethargic were the hosts that they finished the match with no single shot on target.
Mapisa made two saves in the second half to deny the visitors who also had a goal disallowed for an offside trap.
But there was nothing that the 23-year-old goalkeeper could do when Daka came knocking again in injury time.
A cross from the right after another loss of concentration by the Zimbabwe defence saw the ball landing on the feet of Daka at the far post, who swept the ball home from a yard out.
Mudimu, who appeared to have cemented his place in the team before Logarušić’s arrival a year ago, looked distraught at the final whistle knowing that he could have blown his chance to impress the Croat. He will not be the only worried man from the players that played last night. Mudimu had to be consoled by Teenage Hadebe.
With the result, Zimbabwe finished the campaign with eight points while Zambia are on seven.
Zimbabwe: M Mapisa, O Bhasera, G Chimwemwe, A Mudimu, V Kamhuka, R Matova (T Chinyahara, 55’), B Ncube, T Rusike, L Jesi, O Karuru, E Rusike (K Mahachi, 76’)
Zambia: M Chibwe (A Chibwe, 46’), B Chipeshi, A Chama (S Sautu, 70’), B Sakala, R Bwalya (P Katema, 58’), L Musonda (G Lungu, 58’), E Mwepu, R Kabwe, C Chama, P Daka, T Mwape