Tadious Manyepo in PRETORIA, South Africa
THE Mighty Warriors finished in fourth place at the Cosafa Women’s Championship after losing to Mozambique in a third-place play-off game at Lucas Moripe Stadium in Pretoria yesterday.
Zimbabwe, making a return to international football after a two-year suspension from FIFA, had hoped to win a bronze medal following their semi-final loss to Zambia.
Mighty Warriors coach, Shadreck Mlauzi, used the game to provide all members of his squad some game time, making six changes from his starting 11 from the semi-final.
Defensive mistakes gifted Mozambique their two goals in the final stages of the match.
Outstanding goalkeeper Cynthia Shonga was replaced in goal by Herentals shotstopper Lindiwe Magwede, while Praynance Zvawanda, 17-year-old Patience Ndlovu and Maudy Mafuruse were given their first starts in this tournament.
Alice Moyo and Tanyaradzwa Chihoro also bounced back into the Starting 11 as captain Rudo Neshamba, Shyline Dambamuromo, Privilege Mupeti, Edline Mutumbami and Christabel Katona all sat on the bench.
The Zimbabweans were nervous throughout the match, but contained their opponents commendably well until they made two mistakes that gave Mozambique the bronze.
After surviving a scare at the hour mark when VAR ruled out Deolinda Gove’s goal because there was a foul in the lead up, Zimbabwe’s defensive shield was broken by Lucia Mocambique with three minutes before time as Purity Mugayi and Daisy Kaitano made suicidal mistakes at the back.
Mozambique latched onto a loose ball, and lofted the ball over Magwede who had been drawn out to help mop up the mess.
Zimbabwe pushed for an equaliser, camping in the Mozambican half, but were always susceptible to counter attacks.
And when it came, Magwede parried the ball wide before fumbling the resultant corner kick that was tucked home by Cina Manuel right at the death. Yet Zimbabwe should have taken the lead had Mafurufe done justice to Chihoro’s perfectly flighted cross from the left flank just after the restart.
That was Zimbabwe’s only meaningful chance in the entire match after failing to register any shot on goal in the first half.
But this is a team which punched well above its weight given where the country is coming from.
Mlauzi said the technical team have somewhere to start.
“We have picked so many positives from this tournament. We have somewhere to start in terms of going forward,” said Mlauzi.
“We are going home with our tails up as we gave a good account of ourselves. The players gave it their all and we salute them”.