Capitalk Reporter |  11 months ago | local
A crazy world where Ishmael Wadi is, somehow, considered not good enough for the COSAFA Cup but, somehow, finds himself thrust into the battle in a World Cup qualifier.
A weird world where the coach can win just one match in 14 encounters, but still retain the confidence of his employers that he remains the right man, for the big job.
Somehow, even though he is likely to make his debut at the AFCON finals in Cameroon next year, there is still a wave of optimism, among his employers, he will work his magic, when he ventures into virgin territory. So, despite the bizarre set-up, where some of his key players will be appearing at their third straight Nations Cup finals, he is still expected to provide them with the technical guidance, at a tournament he has never graced before.
Maybe, that explains why he has been allowed to spend seven of the 20 months,he has been contracted to coach the Warriors in his homeland, in Europe. Zdravko Logarusic will tell you he was hired, primarily, to improve the Warriors performance at the Nations Cup finals, where the team have fallen in the group stages, at four previous tournaments. Fair and fine, using that template, no one can blame him for failure.
And, in a way, it probably explains why his employers have been saying the 2022 World Cup qualifiers are being used as part of the preparations for the 2021 AFCON finals. The problem is that, on the evidence of what Loga has done, in a ruthless industry where coaches live, and die, according to their results, it’s hard to find anyone, outside the football establishment, who still believes in him.
Goals win matches. And, under the Croat’s guidance, the Warriors have, somehow, lost the swagger which, even against some of the toughest opponents, they used to display and get goals.
After yesterday’s 0-1 defeat in Ethiopia, where they fell to a last-minute penalty which the coach claims was a shocking hometown decision, the Warriors haven’t scored in any of their last three big matches. They were beaten 0-2, at home by Zambia, in a 2021 AFCON qualifying dead rubber, at the National Sports Stadium. They failed to breach the defence of an experimental Bafana Bafana side which, even according to their new coach Hugo Broos, dismally failed to get into their groove. “We made huge progress in one week,’’ the Belgian gaffer told the South African media, after their 1-0 win over Ghana’s Black Stars, in Johannesburg, on Monday night.
‘When I saw my team play in Zimbabwe there was no confidence, no determination, no belief in themselves. “But, what I saw today, I saw a team with confidence who played a very good game. There was determination, a will to win, discipline, and that’s what I like. “I thought that we could win in Zimbabwe and play for a draw against Ghana but it’s the contrary now so I’m not unhappy about that.
‘‘If we can go on like this and continue making progress like we did in this week we will see where we will end at the end of the race.” It’s a measure of how the Warriors’ profile has been eroded, under Loga’s guidance, that a coach like Broos can even come here, with a makeshift Bafana Bafana team, expecting to beat us. Maybe, Broos also knew that, it was very unlikely, the Warriors would score.
That’s what the statistics told him, given the team have now gone for 325 minutes, without a goal, in either a World Cup, or AFCON qualifier, under Loga. Their last goal came in the 15th minute, of the Nations Cup qualifier against Botswana in Francistown on March 25 this year, when Perfect Chikwende bundled the rebound home. Even the usual supplier of goals, captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, appear to have been shackled.
And, the dynamic duo have not scored for the Warriors, since the captain bended a free-kick into the Algerian nets, on November 16, 2020. Billiat hasn’t even scored a goal, under Loga’s watch. And, the irony of it is that, in the last game, before the Croat took over, the Kaizer Chiefs star scored twice, away from home, in the 2-0 win over Zambia. Clearly, the Warriors have lost something, which used to make them such a dynamic group, in attack, before the Croat was brought in, to lead them.
At both the CHAN finals, and the COSAFA Cup, Loga and his men finished, not only bottom of their group, but bottom of all the participating teams.
Of course, he will always argue that, on both occasions, he was crippled by circumstances, as his players were coming from an inactive league and did not have the competitive edge. But, for him to ignore someone like Wadi, when he was flying for CAPS United, in the Chibuku Super Cup, in his squad for the COSAFA Cup, and then pick him for the World Cup qualifiers, exposes his questionable judgment.
And, just like his adventure at the CHAN finals and COSAFA Cup, Loga and his men are now in familiar territory — bottom of their World Cup qualifying table. It’s a position which the coach appears either comfortable, or happy with, because his body language doesn’t seem to suggest it concerns him.
He always has that smile, as if thing are working according to plan, as if he lives in his own world. And, just days after blaming the Zambian top-flight league off-season, for the sluggish show of some of his players, from across the Zambezi, he once again threw Thabani Kamusoko, into the starting XI.
Loga’s inexperience, at this high level, was always a concern, for those who doubted his recruitment. And, yesterday, he became the first Warriors coach in the 75 years of official records, to win only once in his first 14 games. There was no Ethiopian salvation this time as was the case on November 13, 1988, when a 2-1 win, courtesy of goals by Stanley Ndunduma and Mercedes Sibanda, helped the Warriors end a similar poor run.