Set pieces cost Mighty Warriors
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.