The Herald (Harare)

20 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Warriors Drop Again

THEY might not have kicked a ball since October 9 but Zimbabwe's Warriors saw the woes continue yesterday when they slipped down the Fifa World Coca-Cola ranking to end the year outside the top

100.

The Warriors fell three places down to be rated 101 on the latest rankings released by Fifa.

The ratings were the last for this year and they show that the Warriors have gone down instead of improving on the 98th position they attained at the same period last year when they were still under the guidance of Norman Mapeza.

With Asiagate taking its toll and coupled by a poor run in the African Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers under Rahman Gumbo, it was always going to be difficult for the Warriors to make an impact on the international stage.

Now a glance at the latest rakings shows that the Warriors who will begin the New Year under yet another coach -- German Klaus Dieter Pagels- have also swapped places with Sudan as they moved one place down the continental rankings to 26th in Africa with 349 points.

Zimbabwe have been inactive since they let slip a 3-1 first leg lead to fall 2-0 to Angola in Luanda in their final 2013 Nations Cup qualifier in Luanda with the Palancas Negras advancing on the away goal's rule.

The Warriors could have had an opportunity of picking up some points on the November 14 date for Fifa international matches, but with Zifa choosing to disband the senior team instead, it meant that they missed on that chance.

In an era n which they have generally struggled to be a force on the continent again, the Warriors' best place in 2012 was a when they climbed to 89th in the world and 21 in Africa in October following their sensational 3-1 triumph over Angola at Rufaro.

After that win which left the entire nation believing that they had virtually qualified, the Warriors went to sleep and will end the year outside the the top 100 and also starring an early exit from their bid to stake a claim for a place at the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.

This is because by the time that Pagels takes charge of his first competitive game against Egypt in March, they will be still searching for the first in the race for the African slots at the World Cup finals.

Under Gumbo the Warriors only managed two draws at home and away against Guinea and Mozambique in their World Cup qualifiers.

But the loss in the return leg against Angola, which effectively robbed them of their place at next year's Nations Cup in South Africa, precipitated a fresh slide which saw them tumbling nine places down the rankings last month.

Although Pagels has returned home to his native Germany for the holidays his assistant Lloyd Mutasa yesterday said they face a mammoth task to get the Warriors back to a respectable position.

"Obviously once you are in a team you would want to add value and try to do things better. It's still early for me to say how are going to go about it because we still need to meet as technical staff to try and map the way forward.

"National team business is quite a big task that needs maximum concentration and everyone's input. The technical team has to quickly come up with a plan and at the same time we have to assemble a strong squad. We would need to broaden our selection by looking everywhere for players deserving the places.

"I understand we could be playing many games again next year. So we will have to hear how the bosses want things done," said Mutasa.

Zimbabwe's next competitive assignment is an away game to Egypt in the World Cup qualifiers in March before returning home to host the Pharaohs and in June.

While the Warriors were tumbling, World champions Spain, Germany and Argentina remain the top three teams in the world.

Didier Drogba and his Ivorian troops are still Africa's best team and 14th in the world with African champions Zambia perched at fifth on the continent and 34th on the globe.

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