Set pieces cost Mighty War­riors

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Sikhum­buzo Moyo

GER­MANY, ranked sec­ond in the world in women’s foot­ball, needed four set pieces to sub­due a re­silient and com­mit­ted Mighty War­riors out­fit in the sec­ond Group F Olympic Games match in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Wed­nes­day night.

Against all odds, Zim­babwe’s brave girls, who had sham­bolic prepa­ra­tions com­pared to their more fan­cied op­po­nents, even­tu­ally suc­cumbed 1-6 to the Ger­mans, with Ku­dak­washe Ba­sopo scor­ing the his­toric Olympics goal for the team ranked 93rd in the world.

Ger­many got their first goal in the 22nd minute when a Dzsenifer Marozsan cor­ner kick found the head of mid­fielder Sara Daebritz, who plays league foot­ball for top Ger­man side Bay­ern Mu­nich.

While the sec­ond goal was not a set piece, the Ger­mans cap­i­talised on nat­u­ral ad­van­tage, that of height, when Alexan­dra Popp rose high to nod home a cross in the 36th minute.

But still the Zim­bab­wean girls kept their shape and game plan, al­low­ing their op­po­nents to come at them as they de­fended, while the Ger­mans at­tacked to no avail un­til the half way mark.

His­tory was to be made for the girls when Ba­sopo struck in the 50th minute. The goal shook not only the Corinthi­ans Arena where the match took place, but also the en­tire world.

A Ru­tendo Makore shot on goal was par­ried by goal­keeper Al­muth Schult to the feet of Ba­sopo, who slammed home the re­bound.

Ger­many’s sec­ond real set piece came in the 53rd minute when Me­lanie Behringer ri­fled home a free kick to give the Ger­mans a 3-1 lead.

For the next 25 min­utes the Mighty War­riors de­fended like true African war­riors, as their op­po­nents be­gan show­ing signs of frus­tra­tion.

The third set piece, a bit harsh ac­cord­ing to video re­plays, was a penalty when out­stand­ing de­fender Nobuhle Ma­jika was ad­judged to have im­peded Me­lanie Le­upolz in­side the box. Re­plays clearly showed that con­tact was made with the ball first.

Behringer’s ini­tial spot kick was saved by goal­keeper Lindiwe Mag­wede, but the Ger­man was quick­est to re­act to bury the re­bound un­der the keeper’s body.

Le­upolz made it 5-1 seven min­utes from time when she con­trolled a long pass from in­side the box and calmly slot­ted past Mag­wede.

In an ef­fort to clear a cross from the right, an equally out­stand­ing Eu­nice Chibanda headed the ball past her own goal­keeper to give the Ger­mans a 6-1 win.

Al­though the score­line was huge, coach Shadreck Mlauzi’s girls made the na­tion proud and won a num­ber of fans from around the world.

Play­ing against such a fan­cied op­po­nent, whose play­ers play in com­pet­i­tive leagues and for well re­sourced clubs, and man­ag­ing to dif­fuse their tac­ti­cal plan was in­cred­i­ble.

The girls went to the Olympics with­out any ma­jor friendly match and with­out any recog­nis­able league, yet play­ers like Ma­jika, who upon their re­turn will play their league games at a dusty Cow­dray Park Grounds where re­tired ref­er­ees are used, must be a shame to the lead­ers of the game in the coun­try.

Author­i­ties kept the bet­ter part of their of­fice terms fight­ing for po­si­tions at the ex­pense of the girl child, re­sult­ing in league matches be­ing sus­pended.

Even as they left for Brazil, four of their col­leagues, in­clud­ing tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Barry Daka, were left be­hind due to what author­i­ties said was a lack of funds. Only 18 play­ers went to Rio.

No mean­ing­ful, if any, cor­po­rate sup­port was given to the team.

The Mighty War­riors take on Canada to­mor­row be­fore wind­ing their group games against Aus­tralia on Mon­day.

— @skhu­moyo2000

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