Zimbabwe’s Warriors on a mission to find a way back to the top at the Cosafa Castle Cup
By Robson Sharuko
HARARE – The Warriors haven’t roared at the COSAFA Castle Cup in recent years and their last victory was eight years ago on home soil, but Zimbabwe is going to South Africa on a mission to end that lengthy barren run.
The ZIFA leadership enrolled the services of the last coach to win the COSAFA Castle Cup with the Warriors, with veteran gaffer Sunday Chidzambwa.
Chidzambwa is tasked with guiding the team in South Africa, where the Warriors start their campaign in the preliminary group this weekend.
Chidzambwa is the most successful Zimbabwean coach of all-time after guiding the Warriors to two COSAFA Castle Cup titles, including the last one on home soil with a 3-1 win over Zambia in 2009, and has now been charged with bringing another trophy back home.
The former Warriors captain is the country’s most decorated coach and guided the nation’s most successful football club, Dynamos, to seven league titles and to the final of the 1998 CAF Champions League where they lost 2-4 to Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas.
The ZIFA leadership under Harare businessman Philip Chiyangwa has demanded a change of focus, when it comes to the COSAFA Castle Cup, with priority now placed on winning the tournament and not to use the tourney as a platform to expose some players to international football.
“We go into every tournament to try and win it, it’s as simple as that, and there are no excuses because when the players wear that jersey they are representing the country and they have to win for the country,’’ Chiyangwa told The Southern Times.
“We need a culture of winning, a culture of success and that is why we should go there and try and compete as best as we can and, in the past, we have tended to go there, get some poor results and take that as acceptable but that has to change,” he said emphasising that every tournament the team participates in is important.
Chiyangwa demanded a strong showing by the Warriors becuae as COSAFA president, he does not want to see his team redused to a punching bag for other nations.
And Chidzambwa has responded to that by naming a strong team in which the Warriors’ first-choice goalkeeper George Chigova, who kept goals when Zimbabwe opened their 2019 AFCON qualifying campaign with a 3-0 victory over Liberia in Harare, has been drafted into the squad.
The big Polokwane City goalkeeper was one of the outstanding ‘keepers in the last South African Premiership season, with some spectacular performances which caught the eye, and a number of clean sheets to back his status as one of the best in Super Diski.
Chigova has some unfinished business with the COSAFA Castle Cup after he was beaten four times, in a 1-4 thrashing of the Warriors, by a rampant Namibia who went on to show their class in the 2015 tournament by winning it.
“It should be noted that even though the coach has named what appears to be a very strong team, he could have named an even stronger side were it not for the restrictions where he could not pick more than two players from one team,’’ said team manager Wellington Mpandare.
Zimbabwe will play their 50th COSAFA Castle Cup game this year when they take on Madagascar in their second group game at the Royal Bafokeng next week.
The Warriors will begin their 2017 COSAFA Castle Cup campaign with a date against neighbours Mozambique next Monday and then complete their group matches with a date against Seychelles on June 30.
Zambia, who have played 49 matches in the tournament to date, will also mark 5o COSAFA Castle Cup matches in this year’s tourney.
The Zambians, unlike the Zimbabweans, will not play in the group matches because they will get their campaign underway in the knockout stages because of their good ranking.
Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa have won four COSAFA Castle Cup titles each.
Zimbabwe have won more matches than any other nation, in this tournament, with 31 victories from their 48 games, with Zambia a distant second with 25 victories.
“Zimbabwe, not surprisingly, also lead on the goals scored per game statistics among teams that have played 10 or more games with 1.65, followed by Zambia (1.41) and 2015 champions Namibia (1.39),’’ COSAFA said on their website.