Mlauzi praises Mighty War­riors Apol­o­gises for hor­ror tackle that sent Ger­man for­ward to hos­pi­tal

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport Starts Here - Grace Chin­goma Harare Bu­reau

MIGHTY War­riors’ coach Shadreck Mlauzi has praised his charges for their coura­geous per­for­mance de­spite go­ing down 1-6 to se­rial Euro­pean champions Ger­many in their de­but match at the Olympic Games foot­ball tour­na­ment in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Wed­nes­day night.

Pun­dits had ex­pected the Mighty War­riors to suf­fer a record de­feat against the for­mer world champions with even book­mak­ers in the coun­try vir­tu­ally re­fus­ing to take bets on a pos­si­ble Ger­man vic­tory as they were pay­ing less than a cent for ev­ery dol­lar placed on the Euro­peans.

In sharp con­trast, the book­mak­ers were ready to pay about $50 for ev­ery dol­lar bet on a pos­si­ble Mighty War­riors vic­tory, some­thing which they be­lieved was Mis­sion Im­pos­si­ble.

With the Ger­mans hav­ing ham­mered their last two African op­po­nents by pow­er­ing to dou­ble-digit score­lines against Ghana (11-0 in a friendly in­ter­na­tional re­cently) and Cote d’Ivoire (10-0 in a 2015 World Cup match), there were fears the Mighty War­riors were merely lambs that were be­ing driven into the slaugh­ter house of the Corinthi­ans Arena in Sao Paulo.

But the Mighty War­riors bat­tled long and hard, in their first match at such a big stage, and sur­prised the Ger­mans with their tough and dis­ci­plined de­fen­sive ap­proach.

That they were down 0-2 at half-time was, in it­self, a psy­cho­log­i­cal vic­tory for the Mighty War­riors who only con­ceded the first three goals from set-pieces with the first two com­ing from ques­tion­able goal-keeping and their lack of height.

The Mighty War­riors en­joyed the bulk of the sup­port with the fans chant­ing “Zim­babwe, Zim­babwe, Zim­babwe, Zim­babwe”, through­out the match in an out­pour­ing of sup­port for them with ev­ery touch by the Zim­bab­weans be­ing loudly cheered.

Mlauzi, whose play­ers faded to­wards the end, be­lieves they could have done bet­ter if they had been pro­vided with sound prepa­ra­tions be­fore go­ing for the Olympics.

The Mighty War­riors held on for 22 min­utes un­til Sara Daebritz headed the Ger­mans into the lead and the Euro­pean champions dou­bled their lead, through an­other header, this time from Alexan­dra Popp.

Zim­babwe cut that deficit in half four min­utes af­ter the restart when Black Rhi­nos Queens’ Kuda Ba­sopo pounced on a spill from Ger­many goal­keeper Al­muth Schult.

The ‘keeper had failed to han­dle a shot from striker Ru­tendo “Madz­i­mai” Makore who had made a fine run on the left.

But the Mighty War­riors’ tac­ti­cal and fit­ness short­com­ings were ex­posed as the game wore on as they con­ceded four more goals, in­clud­ing a penalty that should not have been given and an own goal from de­fender Eu­nice Chibanda, who beat ‘keeper Lindiwe Mag­wede.

Reg­u­lar ’keeper Chido Dzin­gi­rai was kept on the bench af­ter Mag­wede showed po­ten­tial in train­ing.

Ad­dress­ing a press con­fer­ence af­ter the match, Mlauzi said they tried their best.

“It was a tech­ni­cal match but I think my girls were do­ing ex­tremely well for the greater pe­ri­ods of the game as we had to shut out the more ex­pe­ri­enced for­mer world champions,” he said.

“We knew go­ing into this game that we were up against it and needed to be de­fen­sively well-or­gan­ised.

“But in the sec­ond pe­riod, the last 15 min­utes, that’s when we lost a bit of our tac­ti­cal de­fen­sive dis­ci­pline due to the na­ture of our phys­i­cal con­di­tion­ing.

“I am sure you are all aware that we did not have the best of prepa­ra­tions com­ing into the Olympics as such it was go­ing to be a fac­tor in the last min­utes of the game.”

How­ever, the coach hailed his team, ranked 93rd on world rank­ings, for com­pet­ing against the world’s num­ber two.

“Other than that we think it was a very spir­ited team per­for­mance in terms of ev­ery­thing a coach would want against for­mer world champions and a team

ranked num­ber two and be­ing our first time in the Olympics or at a world stage,” he said.

“We could have asked for more in terms of our dis­ci­pline but we can’t com­plain too much.”

The Mighty War­riors were a bit phys­i­cal, if not overzeal­ous, in some of their tack­les with one such tackle by Lyn­net Mu­tokuto on Simone Laudehr in the first half a dan­ger­ous one that should have been pun­ished by a red card.

Ger­man tabloid, Bild, de­scribed it yes­ter­day as a “Bru­tal, Hor­ror Foul,” and Laudehr had to be pulled out in that first half be­fore be­ing taken to hos­pi­tal.

Ger­man jour­nal­ists in the brief­ing were ea­ger to know from the coach whether it was part of the plan by Zim­babwe to frus­trate their bet­ter op­po­nents.

“Not re­ally, you wouldn’t want to play harshly like that. It wasn’t part of the plan. And I am sure even if you are to an­a­lyse the re­plays, you will see that the in­ten­tion was not re­ally cyn­i­cal as it is be­ing put,” said Mlauzi.

“It was never the in­ten­tion to hurt the op­po­si­tion but we want to be ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive as we can but never to hurt the op­po­si­tion as it turned out to be.

“We are sorry about that, we were not even aware that she had to be taken to the hos­pi­tal.

“The in­ten­tion was never cyn­i­cal but to just go for the ball and, maybe, she might have twisted the lig­a­ments or some­thing dur­ing the process of the tackle.”

Zim­babwe’s next group match is to­mor­row evening against Canada who also won their opener against Aus­tralia 2-0.

Mighty War­riors coach Shadreck Mlauzi

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