By Langton Nyakwenda
He might have helped Zimbabwe qualify for a third successive Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals as well as improve their world rankings, but the Warriors’ success rate under Zdravko “Loga’’ Logarusic (right) is one of the worst in Southern Africa.
The Warriors were ranked 111 on the FIFA World rankings when he was unveiled on February 13, 2020 and they are now on 107.
He is the first foreign coach to lead Zimbabwe to AFCON, and he did so after inheriting four points from Joey Antipas.
While Zimbabwe are one of the only three COSAFA members to qualify for the 2021 AFCON finals alongside Comoros and Malawi, their win rate under the Croat has naturally left many doubting his capabilities.
It is the same doubt that characterised Loga’s first media conference at a Harare hotel when he was officially unveiled.
With one win, three draws and six losses in 11 competitive matches since February 2020, Zimbabwe’s success rate under Loga is 18 percent.
Worryingly, Zimbabwe have only fared better than Madagascar (13 percent) in the COSAFA region during the same period.
Interestingly, Eswatini, who appointed Dominic Kunene on January 19, 2020 — just 10 days before Loga was named Zimbabwe coach — not only have a better success rate, but also reached the semi-finals of the 20th edition of the COSAFA Cup.
With two wins, three draws and four losses in seven competitive matches since February 2020, Eswatini have a 33 percent success rate.
Little-known Comoros have 24 percent, while Malawi, with two wins, three draws and as many losses since February 2020, have 38 percent.
Botswana, who were in the same AFCON qualifying group with Zimbabwe, have won two, drawn one and lost five (29 percent), while Lesotho have a 21 percent rate from one win, two draws and five defeats.
South Africa, who play Senegal in today’s COSAFA Cup final, have the highest mark of 74 percent, although they failed to qualify for AFCON.
Bafana Bafana have six wins, two draws and one loss since February 2020.
On the contrary, Zimbabwe have won only once — against Botswana in an AFCON qualifier in March — since February 2020 when Loga took charge. It is a record that is in stark contrast to the bold declaration which the Warriors coach made on his arrival in Harare.
“I will not disappoint you, but do not disappoint me.”
It’s not clear whether ZIFA have disappointed Loga as yet but what is glaring is how soccer fans are not pleased with what has been happening.
The Warriors failed to get a single point at the African Nations Championship finals (CHAN) — the first time in the tournament’s history — under this watch.
It is under the 55-year-old that Zimbabwe bowed out of COSAFA Cup without a win, again their worst performance in the tournament’s history.
They also blew a 17-match unbeaten record when they lost 2-0 to Namibia.
Before the latest setback, Zimbabwe had last lost a COSAFA Cup match in open play in May 2015, coincidentally against the Brave Warriors, who hammered them 4-1. Alongside Malawi, Zimbabwe had the worst return (two points) amongst the 10 nations that took part at the COSAFA Cup, which ends today at the Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth with a clash between guest nation Senegal and the hosts Bafana Bafana. ZIFA have since promised to hold a meeting to evaluate the senior team’s performance.
Although ZIFA board member and chairperson of the technical and development committee, Bryton Malandule, is not happy with the Warriors’ performance at the COSAFA tournament, he was cautious and guarded in his sentiments on the fate of the coach.
“Obviously, our objective as a board when we enter any tournament, be it COSAFA, CHAN or AFCON, we do not do so to go and fail, irrespective of the type of players representing us,” Malandule told our sister paper The Herald last week.
Curiously, ZIFA never met with Loga after the CHAN disaster, with the coach flying back to Croatia straight from Cameroon.
It was a similar story after the Warriors concluded their AFCON assignments, with the coach leaving the following day after their clash against Zambia in March.
That the ZIFA board, which seems to prefer in-person meetings in an era of virtual indabas, have deferred their meeting because Kamambo is away in Morocco at the invitation of CAF president Patrice Motsepe has also fuelled speculation that the proposed review of the gaffter’s performance could be just another red herring to deflate public pressure.
In his defence, Loga argues the COSAFA Cup was a learning curve and that his main focus remains the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the AFCON finals and the CHAN qualifiers.
“I was using this tournament to see if any player is ready to come to the national team (for the AFCON finals and World Cup qualifiers) and I saw two or three players which can be part of the national team,” he said.
Whether the Croatian will still be in charge come September is now a subject of intense speculation.
When he took over from Antipas, Zimbabwe had garnered four out of a possible six points.
He could only add another four points out of a possible 12 as the Warriors laboured to the finishing line.
When Zambia appointed Serbian Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic, they were bottom of Group H of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, but Chipolopolo ended the campaign third and just a point behind the Warriors.
Their poor run at the COSAFA Cup where Chipolopolo failed to defend their title seems to have largely contributed to the Football Association of Zambia ending Micho’s tenure with the team yesterday.
A statement from FUZ claimed the association and the Serbian had parted ways mutually.
“The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) wishes to announce to its members and stakeholders that it has mutually separated with the senior Men’s National Team Head Coach Milutin ‘Michó’ Sredojevic.
“Both parties agreed to mutually separate after a meeting held this morning at Football House.
“FAZ can confirm that it has reached a mutual separation agreement with its senior Men’s National Team coach Milutin ‘Micho’ Sredojevic. After a meeting between FAZ and the coach, it was agreed that in the interest of progress for both parties they had to separate,” read part of the stamen from FAZ General Secretary Adrian Kashala.
Logarusic however, argues that his mandate was to qualify Zimbabwe for the AFCON finals and he did that.But Logarusic claims his mandate was to qualify Zimbabwe for the AFCON finals and he did just that.
Some stakeholders in the developmental structures feel no progress has been made in the past two years.
“Zimbabweans are football savvy and understand the game well. There is no pulling the wool over their eyes,” opines Farai Dhliwayo, Legends Academy director.
“Simply combining a selection of players does not form a competitive team. Any coach understands this.
“A coach must establish principles of play. These principles are permanent and are your identity regardless of tactical formations engaged.
“The problem, maybe, is that after two years we still do not have these principles in place and there is no clear growth in the national team regardless of which players are selected,” Dhliwayo said.
Selection issues were raised when Loga announced his squad for the COSAFA Cup as a number of in-form players like Denver Mukamba (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Ishmael Wadi (CAPS United), Frank Makarati (Dynamos) and Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum) were ignored.
The inclusion of striker Evans Rusike, who had a forgettable final season with SuperSport United, also raised eyebrows.
It was not clear from the onset which objective Loga carried into the tournament: Was it to develop young players, to resuscitate some fading careers, or market players?
“There is a great failing here by ZIFA and national team coaches at all levels of the game. We are also failing to use developmental tournaments to competitively develop players.
“We must assemble teams that play to win or there is no development.
“What are you teaching a developmental player if your attitude is we did not come to win? How will you motivate him to do better if he has no winning mentality?’’ Dhliwayo said.
He believes the COSAFA tournament is not a “mickey-mouse competition’’ but a platform for the best local players.
“Looking at our team, we needed the best players, mainly from FC Platinum, Ngezi (Platinum Stars), Highlanders, Chicken Inn, Dynamos and CAPS United, and then from other teams.
“I am sure as a country it will take us years to win the World Cup and the AFCON, so this regional tournament becomes our target.
“This is the tournament in which fans had high expectations, which needed to be fulfilled by our team.
“The technical team needed to understand that good performance would give us more confidence ahead of the upcoming World Cup campaign.” The Sunday Mail