21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Bubbly, Bullish Monoz

Photo: Confederation of African Football.
The Zimbabwean Dynamos Football Club

MONOMOTAPA played a big hand in deciding the destiny of the Premiership title but, having come short on that front, they now want to spoil DeMbare's hopes of a league and Cup double at Rufaro on Saturday. The stylish Harare side were the only side good enough to beat Highlanders in the league championship race this season and their 3-0 victory at Rufaro ultimately cost Bosso the championship.

Buoyed on by hundreds of DeMbare fans that day, Monoz turned on the style and handed Bosso their first, and only, defeat of the season and, to add insult to injury, the Harare team's players turned to the Zora Butter dance for their post-match celebrations.

On reflection, the Bosso fans will look back to that game and say that if they had, at least, picked a point, they would not only have been champions but also turned into Immortals, just like the Arsenal team of the 2003/2004 season.

But now Monoz, widely acknowledged as the team that players the best eye-catching football in the country, turn their guns on the champions when they face Dynamos in a Mbada Diamonds Cup final that has the potential of turning into a classic showdown.

Seasoned forward, Tawanda Nyamandwe, has returned to full fitness, boosting Monomotapa's attack ahead of the big match.

Nyamandwe, who is also the Monoz skipper, has been battling a recurrent ankle injury that has forced him to miss some important assignments including his side's last two outings against Gunners and Buffaloes.

He has a knack of scoring against DeMbare and scored his team's priceless goal, in a 1-0 win against the Glamour Boys in the league, and then scored again when they lost the reverse fixture.

His coach Biggie Zuze was a relieved man yesterday as his most experienced striker bounced back and will now be in line to front the Monoz attack that also includes Kuda Musharu, Osbourne Mukuradare and Makai "Jecha" Kawashu when they take on their city rivals in the second edition of the country's biggest knockout tournament.

Zuze, seeking his first silverware as coach, having won several league and cup titles in his playing days as an enterprising midfielder for Dynamos in the mid 1980s and early 1990s, yesterday also revealed that tough tackling centre back Morgan Mungombe had also recovered in time for Monoz' biggest match of the 2012 season.

Monoz had until their 1-0 victory over Buffaloes at Rufaro last Sunday lost their last three league assignments, which saw them slip from third into fourth place on the final Premiership standings.

The modest Harare side, the Mbada Diamonds Cup's 2012 surprise packages, however, appear to have shifted their focus to Saturday's final, from the day they upstaged fancied FC Platinum 1-0 in a semi-final clash at Sakubva on November 10.

And, with the Premiership campaign now fully behind them following the conclusion of the Castle Lager League programme, Zuze yesterday stoked the flames ahead of the Mbada Diamonds final by declaring his youthful outfit ready to spoil the party mood in the Dynamos camp and insisting they were hungrier for the cup than the Glamour Boys.

Dynamos are on a high following their triumph in a tight championship race in which they edged Highlanders on goal difference to secure their 19th league title.

Monoz, however, have other ideas and want to bring the curtain down to a rivetting 2012 season by being crowned the Mbada Diamonds Cup kings.

A bullish Zuze said such a feat can be achieved insisting "we literally beat ourselves when lost 2-1 to Dynamos in the league match at Rufaro a few weeks ago".

Just like Dynamos gaffer Callisto Pasuwa, Zuze is a humble character whose success story with Monoz has silenced some of his critics who were questioning whether he had the credentials to take full charge of a Premiership side or should have remained part of the backroom staff.

Zuze said although Monoz would wear the underdog tag going into the final, his team, which has been credited with playing the best passing and entertaining game in the top-flight this year, would not be intimidated.

For long periods in their last meeting against Dynamos at the same venue on November 4 Monoz, who had taken the lead through Nyamandwe, dominated but then collapsed and allowed the Glamour Boys to come back with two second half goals from Simba Sithole and a late winner from substitute Roderick Mutuma.

Zuze, however, reckoned that his Monoz side, which also includes a talented midfielder called Ronald "Rooney" Chitiyo, is are ready to give it their best and complete their fairytale Mbada Diamonds Cup run on a winning note.

The midfield clash between Chitiyo and DeMbare Golden Boy, Denver Mukamba, could provide a thrilling sub-plot to this game.

"I think the most important thing is to go out there and compete. We have no injury worries and Nyamandwe is back from injury and I hope the hard surface at Rufaro does not affect him. His experience should come in handy on such big occasions.

"Morgan Mungombe is also back after missing the Buffaloes game. Our win over Buffaloes has brought back the confidence in the team because we had gone for three games without a win and the guys were a bit low but now everyone is ready," Zuze said.

The man who was affectionately known as "Bindura" during his playing days because of his roots in the mining and farming town, also felt that his charges could capitalise on the fact that Dynamos, who naturally command a bigger following, could be under pressure from the wave of expectations for a yet another league and double that has been sweeping across the blue and white masses.

"From the experience I have gained working under different coaches, I know what to expect from such big matches and how best to deal with my youngsters in terms of psyching them for the final.

"But I think the pressure is more on Dynamos because they are looking for a double having won the league last Sunday.

"It is a fact that Dynamos are a big and more experienced club but people must also remember that we were not hand-picked to play in this final, we have worked hard for it and I think we also deserve respect".

Zuze said Monoz were also relishing a return to continental football just four years after that surprised everyone including themselves with their maiden Champions League dance ending with a place in the group stage.

Irrespective of the result in Saturday's final Monoz are already guaranteed of a place in the Confederation Cup as Dynamos will be playing in the Champions League.

But Zuze wants his team to spice up their return to the continental game by actually winning the cup.

"We would love to go on and represent the country as cup winners and not as runners-up, I think that would be really nice and we have the capacity to do that.

"I know that Dynamos are on a high after winning the league, I also know that they have very good players, history favours them and they have more experienced players but I think this cup means a lot more to us. Although we respect Dynamos I still think that in our last match with them we really deserved something from it but we then lost concentration and conceded two goals but we have found another chance to make amends and we have been working on correcting the mistakes that we made.

"We actually beat ourselves when we last played them and if we can concentrate for 90 minutes we should be able to win this time around," Zuze said.

Zuze also predicted an exciting final arguing that both teams were enjoying good form in the final run in of the season.

"I think this will be a great cup final because both teams are playing good football and both teams have some exciting youngsters but like I said we want this cup more and we can do it," Zuze said.

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