By Grace Chingoma
Zimbabwe Under-20 national football team’s hopes of progressing to the semi-finals of the COSAFA Championships suffered a huge blow yesterday after they went down to Mozambique at Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, yesterday.
The Young Warriors have managed a point from two matches in the tournament which also serves as the zonal qualifiers for next year’s CAF Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations finals to be held in Mauritania.
Zimbabwe, who played a blinder in the opening match against hosts South Africa on Thursday last week and only to let slip their lead deep in added time, yesterday failed to build on that performance.
Second half goals from Simon Cipriano and Gabriel Pinho flattened Tonderai Ndiraya’s men who no longer have their fate in their own hands.
Young Warriors midfielder Bill Antonio could have found the opener but the Prince Edward Academy player, who was given a deserved place in the starting line-up, was unlucky when his solo effort after some fancy work was parried over by the Mozambican keeper.
Zimbabwe felt hard done in the 57th minute when the referee adjudged that Munashe Katondo had handled the ball and awarded the neighbours a penalty which was scored by Cipriano, who also scored in Mozambique’s match against Lesotho.
After the goal, the Young Warriors, who enjoyed the majority possession, panicked and were now rushing their build ups.
Lexington Mujokoro, who was the star of the show against Amajita last Thursday, had a subdued game and was eventually replaced by Tendayi Matindife.
As the Young Warriors sought for an equaliser, Mozambique put the game beyond them in the 85th minute when Gabriel Pinho came from the bench to plant a perfect header off a corner.
Zimbabwe’s Munashe Garan’anga was named the player of the match by the organisers.
The Ubuntu Cape Town player said it was not their day.
“I am disappointed that we didn’t get three points but am grateful for the recognition. It was frustrating for us not to score, in training we are always scoring. It was just not our day,” said the South Africa-based player.
Zimbabwe coach Ndiraya acknowledged that the players, who had hasty preparations before leaving for the tournament, were lacking some basics in football.
“We did well in the first half to create chances but I felt we were a bit heavy and not pressing enough.
“In football if you don’t convert your chances you get punished.
“Our hopes are no longer there. We just need to go back and develop our players, some of the basic things are lacking, which cannot be taught at this platform.
“Mozambique had a game-plan and stuck to it, credit goes to them, they are almost there (in the semi-finals),” Ndiraya said.
The top team in each group proceeds to the last four, together with the best runners up. Other Group A teams, South Africa and Lesotho were scheduled to play in a late kick off.
Zimbabwe round up their group matches tomorrow against Lesotho.
Zimbabwe line-up: Raphael Pitisi, Marshall Pini, Mannered Matsikidze, Munashe Katondo (Oscar Magejo 60th minute), Tinotenda Muringai, Lexington Mujokoro (Tendai Matindife 72nd minute), Munashe Garananga, Panashe Mutimbanyoka, Bill Antonio, Tapiwa Mandinyenya, Kelvin Mangiza (Brandon Ngarurungo 85th minute). The Herald