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Zimbabwe Warriors slide down FIFA rankings

HARARE- Zimbabwe’s Warriors have taken a heavy slide down the Fifa/Coca Cola world rankings as they tumbled a shocking 28 places down the ladder to end the year ranked 98.

Zimbabwe Warriors coach Norman Mapeza with Tottenham Hotspurs manager Harry Redknapp (22 July 2005). The Spurs manager tried to sign Mapeza from his Turkish club sometime back.
Zimbabwe Warriors coach Norman Mapeza with Tottenham Hotspurs manager Harry Redknapp (22 July 2005). The Spurs manager tried to sign Mapeza from his Turkish club sometime back.

According to the latest Fifa rankings, Zimbabwe were the biggest losers in the world and will finish the year in 24th place in Africa with 354 points. The Warriors were ranked 70 in the world and 16th on the continent last month.

Zimbabwe had been inactive since they last played South Africa in an international friendly last month and the latest rankings came as a shock to coach Norman Mapeza. “I’m surprised because we have been inactive all along. There haven’t been any internationally-recognised matches since we last played South Africa.

“And dropping 28 places is inconceivable unless they (Fifa) included the Cecafa tournament to determine the rankings,” said Mapeza.

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Mapeza also noted that apart from international friendlies on the Fifa dates, a number of teams had not played many games which led the coach into wondering how some countries could have gained a lot of ground while his charges registered a massive drop.

Zimbabwe had not played international matches since November 15 when they beat Bafana Bafana at Rufaro and rose four places to ease into number 70 in the world. The Warriors sent a developmental side that took part in the Cecafa tournament early this month and reached the quarter-finals in Tanzania.

Mapeza said he was not sure if the games they played at Cecafa contributed to their slide since Cecafa is not part of the Fifa calendar. “What I am aware of is that the World Cup qualifiers, Afcon matches and the Fifa approved international friendlies are the major determinants in the rankings system.

“But Cecafa, just like Cosafa, is a regional developmental tournament that is not on the Fifa calendar, so I am not sure how the rankings were done.  It’s shocking, but at the end of the day we would need to play more international games to get back where we belong, probably in the top 50,” said Mapeza.

The Warriors had done well this year when they rose 39 places up the ladder following the victory over Mali in the Nations Cup qualifiers and forced their way back into the world’s top 100. Mapeza’s men further rose up the standings when they posted their second Nations Cup Group A win with their 3-0 triumph over Liberia at the National Sports Stadium.

But their defeat by Cape Verde in their final qualifier, which also meant that they had lost out on a place at the Nations Cup finals triggered a slide in the Warriors ratings. The Warriors failed to qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations to be co-hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea losing 2-1 to Cape Verde in their final Group A qualifier encounter.

At Cecafa, Zimbabwe, who were the highest ranked team, fielded a development side. The Warriors blew hot and cold but managed to reach the knockout stage after finishing second in Group A, which included Rwanda, Djibouti and hosts Tanzania. They had two victories in the round robin stage when they dismissed Djibouti 2-0 and went on to shock Tanzania 2-1 to progress to the last eight.

They lost once in the group stages to Rwanda 2-0 in between the two wins and eventually bowed out of the tournament in the quarter-finals after they lost 1-0 to Uganda. Zimbabwe took part at the tournament as guests. The Warriors, who at once eased into 66th on the global rankings position after Fifa had reviewed their performance for September, had hoped to finish in a respectable position this year.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Elephants, who will be one of the firm favourites when the 2012 Nations Cup finals burst into life in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, will end the year as Africa’s Number One team. The Elephants are followed by the Black Stars of Ghana with Algeria third ahead of reigning African champions Egypt and the Super Eagles of Nigeria.

Senegal, Cameroon, South Africa, surprise packages Cape Verde Islands and Tunisia complete the continent’s top 10. On the global front World Cup winners Spain are still ranked the best in the world with 1 564 points followed by Netherlands with 1 365 points while Germany, Uruguay and England complete the top five.