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Mapeza faces selection challenges ahead of Liberia tie

18/05/2017 00:00:00
by Simba Mushati, KweséESPN
Warriors caretaker coach Norman Mapeza

ZIMBABWE Warriors caretaker coach Norman Mapeza is already grappling with team selection ahead of the 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia early next month.

The Lone Stars' visit represents Mapeza's first competitive encounter on his return to the Zimbabwe bench, albeit on a temporary basis.  

And with the broke Zimbabwe Football Association having indicated that they are in no position to appoint a substantive coach anytime soon. The 45-year-old will also be in charge for the African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifiers as well as the Cosafa Cup tournament later in June.

KweséESPN takes a look at the selection challenges facing Mapeza for the Liberia showdown.

Goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva has been Zimbabwe's first-choice goalkeeper since the beginning of the 2017 Nations Cup qualifiers, but a transfer to Cape Town City from local giants Dynamos at the beginning of the year has left him short on match fitness.

Besides, some have always felt the 21-year-old is still green for such a huge responsibility.  An apparent loss of form at Dynamos last year did not help, and with the frustratingly rigid regime of Calisto Pasuwa who is now out of the picture, a change of guard between the posts is definitely in the making for Zimbabwe.

Among possible replacements, Mapeza could place his trust in Polokwane star George Chigova. The 27-year-old has worn the Warriors jersey before, most notably at the 2014 Chan finals in South Africa.

Chigova has been terrific for Polokwane since moving to the North West in 2014 and this season alone, he has featured in each of their 29 league matches.

Inevitably, he has had his low points. The former Dynamos star endured a forgettable outing at the 2015 Cosafa Cup tournament after conceding four goals in one match as Zimbabwe were humiliated 4-0 by Namibia.

Everything considered though, Chigova has the heart, the height and the experience to do a decent job for Zimbabwe.

Mapeza's own man at FC Platinum, Petros Mhari, might also feel he now has the chance to impress in a Warriors jersey. Mhari was the league's most outstanding goalkeeper last seasons, and his omission from Nations Cup squad for the Gabon finals sparked intense debate in local football circles.

Defence The choice of a central defence partnership could prove the biggest headache for Mapeza ahead of the Liberia match, with the recent injury to Czeck Republic-based Costa Nhamoinesu further complicating matters.


Dynamos defender Elisha Muroiwa who partnered Nhamoinesu in Gabon, looked hopelessly out of depth in Gabon and it is unlikely that Mapeza would want to have anything to do with the 28-year-old.

Lawrence Mhlanga, who also made the Nations Cup squad is yet to play this season after a purported move to FC Platinum stalled over contractual disagreements with his parent club Chicken Inn.

Teenage Hadebe on the other hand has off late been in and out of the Chicken Inn starting eleven.

Mapeza might therefore feel tempted to glance in the direction of champions CAPS United for solutions, with the Green Machine skipper Dennis Dauda showing some remarkable consistency since breaking into the team last season.

Other possible options include Ngezi Platinum defender Patson Jaure, Platinum's own Elvis Moyo and Highlanders' Peter Muduhwa.

Mapeza would also have to decide on whether to persist with full-backs Onismo Bhasera and Hardlife Zvirekwi, who have so far not covered themselves in glory.

If ongoing efforts to lure Burnley right-back Tendai Darikwa succeed, that could spell the end of Zvirekwi tenure as a Warriors regular. Options remain pretty thin on Bhasera's flank however.

Midfield Mapeza will be relieved that Willard Katsande is still available for selection after initially indicating his intention to retire in the aftermath of the Gabon Nations Cup finals.

The skipper's partnership with Netherlands-based Marvellous Nakamba might have misfired somewhat in Gabon, but it surely did a sterling job during the preceding qualifiers.

The challenge for Mapeza is to find a creative force to complement the two, and only time will tell whether he is convinced that CAPS United's Ronald Chitiyo is ready to grab his chance on the big stage.

Mapeza might even feel that Dynamos playmaker Denver Mukamba has recovered enough form to warrant a return to the team he once captained.   Target man Nyasha Mushekwi is the form man among the Warriors' array of target men. Pity he has consistently failed to replicate his club form in a Warriors jersey.

The former Mamelodi Sundowns man has hogged the limelight after a sizzling run off form in the Chinese second tier, scoring eight goals in eight matches to fire Dylan Yifang to the top of the standings.

Yet, past experiences have shown that Mushekwi is not the perfect fit for Zimbabwe. But then who is?

For his part, Tendai Ndoro seemed to be evolving into the kind of forward Zimbabwe has been craving for, but that now seems ages ago.

Today, Ndoro barely resembles the man who scored 11 goals in 11 league matches for Orlando Pirates at start of the South African season.

A return of one league goal since the beginning of the year has reduced the 32-year-old to little more than a squad player, and most definitely the former Chicken Inn man is no shape to effectively spearhead Zimbabwe's frontline against Liberia.

Cuthbert Malajila is the other option, but he too has struggled for game time of late. He scored four goals in eight starts in Bidvest Wits' successful campaign, and the fact that he has started just 13 league matches over the last two seasons tells the story of a fallen star.

Swedish-based youngster Tinotenda Kadewere for his part is yet to really get a foothold in the team at Djurgarden, where he has taken part in four of their eight matches so far in the season, scoring once. He had three goals to his name last season.

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