Tadious Manyepo in BLOEMFONTEIN

IT’S been four days of hell for the Warriors.  They arrived in South Africa with so much hope but left a dejected lot. 

Before 3pm on Friday last week, only two points separated them from Group C leaders Rwanda after two match days. 

But they left South Africa five points behind the same team, who still top the pool after four matches. 

The Warriors were expected to push Lesotho aside in their first of the double-header 2026 World Cup qualifiers at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg.

They were eyeing at least four points from the two fixtures to firm up their hunt for a place in Canada, Mexico and the United States in 2026. 

But their nine-day stay in South Africa was all in vain after failing to pick even a single point from both games.

Yet both defeats were, in a way, self-inflicted. 

Against Lesotho, Jairos Tapera and his men enjoyed tremendous support as the Zimbabwean community converged at the Soweto arena. 

But they put up a rather flat showing, making elementary errors at the back and Lesotho duly punished them, taking with them the full points following a shock 2-0 victory. 

Against South Africa, substitute Thapelo Morena’s brace and Aqraam Rayners’ strike ensured the Zimbabweans, who scored their consolation through Tawanda Chirewa, walked way empty handed. 

“We picked some positives in many areas that I think we can build from with time,” said Tapera. 

“Well, there is a team (Benin) who are on seven points right now but they were in bottom place.

“They only won two games and they are joint top now. Let’s take what has happened here as the starting point where we can launch from. 

“If we get organised, we will be able to do well in our next assignments. 

“In terms of goals conceded, the two games haven’t been good at all. But, in terms of overal performance, I think we have somewhere to start from. 

“I respect the boys for the performances during the two games even if we lost. In terms of performance, it wasn’t bad.”

He added:

“When you assemble as a team, everybody wants you to win. We wanted to play as a team but you are coming from the ban and you are getting into these games, you have these youngsters coming into the game who have to gel with the senior players you have.

“I think we will get there.”

South African gaffer Broos acknowledged that Zimbabwe are not that bad. 

“First of all I am very happy with the results. Zimbabwe were very dangerous some times in terms of transition,” he said after the game. 

The 2026 World Cup qualifiers will only be back in March and one hopes the ZIFA Normalisation Committee would have paved the way for a new executive as the current leaders continue to run down the game with strange decisions, including picking the entire team for the coach.

Tapera was only assigned to try and convert players, who he didn’t call for duty, into winners.

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