They returned empty-handed instead, but the impact the home-based players made at the tournament left many admirers behind for Ian Gorowa’s boys. It also gave a hint that with more support from both Zifa and the corporate world, Zimbabwe could reclaim the glory days of the early 1990s.
For the first time outside the less-rewarding and little-recognised Cosafa Cup, fans found glory in being Zimbabwean. The agility of George Chigova as he repelled attack after attack from within the goalposts, the dependability of Partson Jaure at the back, the overlapping runs of Milton Ncube, the dribbling skills and defence-splitting passes of Peter “Rio” Moyo and the darting runs and inch-perfect passes of the ginger-haired Kuda Mahachi, endeared The Warriors to their fans, as Zimbabwe soared to the semi-finals of the second-biggest tournament on the continent.
It took a stroke of “bad luck” to boot The Warriors out of the tournament – a denied, yet legitimate goal in the dying minutes of their semi-final tie with Libya robbing them of a place against Ghana in the ultimate leg.
When it went to the penalties, it became anybody’s game. Chigova’s heroics in saving two penalties were undone by three penalty misses by his team-mates, which gave the game to the Libyans.
The Warriors were reduced to 10 men when they contested for third place with Afcon champions Nigeria, but they still held their own and only fell in the dying stages, to bow out with some level of respect.
So huge was the impact made by Zimbabwe that when CAF mentioned the best players of the tournament, Jaure and Mahachi made it to the first 11, while Moyo was included among the substitutes.
The CHAN is now gone, but should have given Gorowa pointers on where to strengthen when he recalls his foreign-based players to contest for a place at the 2015 Afcon, to which Zimbabwe must qualify to cement its new-found status as one of Africa’s best. It will be another tough assignment, but with Gorowa in charge, Zimbabwe will always have a chance.Post published in: Football