By Eddie Chikamhi
ZIFA board member, Bryton Malandule, says Croatian coach Zdravko Logarusic needs to be given more time in charge of the Warriors.
The 55-year-old coach has come under intense criticism, following a slow start to his tenure, in charge of the senior national football team.
The gaffer, who signed a two-year performance-based contract with ZIFA last year, recently took the Warriors over the line, in the 2021 AFCON qualifying marathon.
He completed the work that was started by Joey Antipas.
The Warriors finished second, behind African champions, Algeria, in a Group H that also featured Zambia, and neighbours Botswana.
But, Loga continues to divide opinion, within the domestic football family, and there have been doubts about his capabilities, especially with the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, coming up in June.
In his eight games in charge of the Warriors, he has won one, drawn two and lost five.
But, ZIFA board member Malandule, however, said it was unfair to judge Loga, at this point.
Malandule, who is in charge of the Technical and Development Committee, said the Warriors have suffered from many disruptions, because of the Covid-19 situation.
This has, sometimes, led to the unavailability of key players and robbed the team of preparation time.
Zimbabwe are set to take part in the World Cup qualification marathon in Group G, which also features Ethiopia and Ghana.
“We have noticed that there have been a lot of de-campaigning against the coach on social media, and there have been people calling for Loga’s head, without even justifying their opinions,” said Malandule.
“They are always criticising.
“Of course, when we appointed the coach you all saw what happened with the Covid-19 pandemic and that, for his first game against Malawi, he couldn’t get most of the players he had wanted to see in that friendly.
“Then, we went to Algeria and lost, honestly, can you tell me how easy is it for any African team, at the moment, to go to Algeria and claim maximum points?
“Then, we went to Cameroon for the CHAN tournament, on the back of coronavirus-ravaged preparations, and we lost all the games, there were no preparations whatsoever.
“If you remember, the team spent most of the time in quarantine after members were diagnosed with Covid-19.’’
He said, when he needed the points, Loga secured them.
“But, then, when we needed the points to qualify for AFCON, we held Algeria to a draw here and then beat Botswana in their backyard,’’ said Malandule.
“No one spoke about the coach being fired. “The criticism only came back again when we played Zambia, and decided to rest our key players who were carrying yellow cards, which could have made them ineligible for the opening match in Cameroon.
“Mind you, when we played Zambia, we had already qualified and that was an option available to us.’’
The Warriors will begin their battle for a place at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, with a potentially explosive showdown against South Africa at home, during the weekend of June 5 to 8.
They then travel to Ethiopia, a week later. Action will resume in September, with the Warriors facing their toughest encounter of the qualifiers, when they take on Ghana in back-to-back-home-and-away clashes, between September 1 to 7.
They are expected to travel to South Africa for the penultimate round before rounding off the qualifiers with a home tie against Ethiopia.
Only the top team, from the 10 groups, will proceed to the third round.
They will engage in a head-to-head elimination round in November.
The five winners will then qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
The Warriors have never qualified for the World Cup. Only South Africa and Ghana have World Cup experience in Group G. Zimbabwe missed the previous World Cup campaign after the Warriors were suspended by FIFA because of the long-standing debt owed to former coach, Valinhos.
Malandule said Loga will be tasked with the mandate to lead the team in the World Cup qualifiers.
The 55-year-old led Sudan to third place, at the 2018 CHAN finals in Morocco, and helped them attain a spot in the group stage of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Logarusic has coached Kenyan giants, Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe have risen five places on the FIFA rankings.
The Warriors are now ranked 107th in the world and 24th in Africa. The Herald