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Chidzambwa on the brink of Cosafa history

By Petros Kausiyo in SUN CITY, South Africa

Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa, standing on the threshold of a record third COSAFA Castle Cup title, has demanded total concentration from his charges as he seeks his second triumph over Zambia in the final of this regional competition. The Warriors and Chipolopolo will clash at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace on Sunday with either side aiming at a record-breaking fifth title.

Blessing Majarira of Zimbabwe celebrates a goal with teammates during the Cosafa Castle Cup match between Mozambique and Zimbabwe at the Moruleng Stadium in Rustenburg on 26 June 2017 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Sunday’s final will also be the fourth time the Warriors and Chipolopolo will be meeting in a COSAFA Castle Cup decider with Zimbabwe having previously won two meetings at Mmabatho Stadium in Mafikeng under Charles Mhlauri and Rufaro with Chidzambwa in charge.

Zambia’s only triumph over Zimbabwe came on home soil at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola in 2013 when the Warriors were under the guidance of German Klaus Dieter Pagels.

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When Chidzambwa presided over the Warriors 3-1 thrashing of Zambia in November 2009, to secure his second COSAFA Castle Cup title, it also became the last time that the 65-year-old coach had taken charge of the senior team.

Chidzambwa’s return, albeit on an interim basis, has coincided with the Warriors’ resurgence in a competition in which they had lost their way and have since 2015 suffered the ignominy of playing in the preliminary stage and failing to go beyond group games.

The veteran coach also has a proud record of never having lost a COSAFA Castle Cup match.

Chidzambwa, however, has chosen to be modest about his enviable COSAFA Castle Cup record and suggested “it might just be a coincidence or sheer luck”.

“Maybe God would be the best to answer that (about the fine run) or maybe it is just a coincidence or sheer luck that I have not lost a game in the COSAFA tournament,” Chidzambwa said.

Unlike his previous teams that have been built around punishing defences, Chidzambwa’s Class of 2017 has raked in 15 goals and conceded four in five matches inside nine days with skipper Ovidy Karuru and striker Knox Mutizwa leading the way with six and four goals.

Karuru, a hot favourite to win the Player of the Tournament accolade has twice won man-of-the-match awards and grabbed the competition’s first hat-trick before Golden Arrows forward Mutizwa followed suit in the victory over Lesotho.

“We really need to fully concentrate in every phase of the game,” Chidzambwa said.

“We need to rectify our mistakes in defence in the next few days and work on ball possession . . . we were losing the ball on too many occasions against Lesotho.

“When I was watching the replay of the game, I saw that we lost five easy chances to score, and while it is not given that you have to score every chance I feel we should have at least put two away.’’

Chidzambwa expressed satisfaction with the manner in which his charges have been acquitting themselves in the attacking third.

“The good thing is that while we are missing some chances we are creating the opportunities and entering the penalty area and that is the only way you can win matches because you are bound to score from those chances.

“Since we are scoring goals it makes players have that urge to want to play more and when you score the game becomes much easier for you and psychologically the fatigue is not felt that much.

“Our biggest problem has been that when we score we tend to relax instead of scoring more or defending that goal so that we keep control of the game and we need to attend to those issues before we meet Zambia,” Chidzambwa said.

Chipolopolo are one of six sides that have joined the tournament from the quarter-final stage and benefited from having fresh legs, but Chidzambwa reckons the Zambians are also a strong side.

“They are good side going forward and very solid in defence so it is not going to be easy for us in the final.

“In fact, you can see that the competition has become tougher in the knock-out games unlike in the group stages when it was much easier.

“Swaziland and Lesotho gave us a tough time and we need to keep working hard until the end”.

Chidzambwa will be looking to have Black Rhinos defender Jameson Mukombwe back from injury as he seeks to complete a COSAFA double over Chipolopolo and crucially write a new chapter to his glittering tournament history. The Herald