The appointment of Klause Dieter Pagels as the Warriors coach brought relief to most soccer-loving Zimbabweans who thought he was going to immediately reincarnate the good old Reinhard Fabisch days.
Fabisch, the most celebrated coach of Zimbabwe's national side, was in charge of the Warriors between 1992 and 1995. His 'Dream Team' brought everyone in the country together even though ultimate success eluded them.
But following Sunday’s 4-2 drubbing by Egypt at the National Sports Stadium, soccer loving Zimbabweans are beginning to ask questions of the new coach, appointed only late last year.
The football fans are in agreement that national team coach Pagels and his assistants Peter Ndlovu and Lloyd Mutasa got it all wrong in coming up with the final team that played Egypt resulting in the Warriors’ comprehensive defeat.
Of particular debate are the first team midfield places that were handed over to rookies Devon Chafa and Hardlife Zvirekwi, instead of South Africa-based captain Denver Mukamba and Belgium-based Ovidy Karuru, who were kept on the bench until deep into the second half.
Sports writer Langton Nyakwenda of the weekly Sunday Mail newspaper agrees with most of the fans. He says had the coaches started with Mukamba, Karuru, and Ajax Cape Town’s Khama Billiart in midfield, the result could have been different.
In his final analysis of the game respected football commentator Charles Mabika said everything fell apart in midfield, questioning why the coaches changed the team that did so well in losing 2-1 to Egypt in Alexandria on March 26.
Warriors fan club organizing secretary Tendai Makoni agrees. He points out that the experiment in using Chafa and Zvirekwi cost the team, adding the coaches also erred in ignoring Kaiser Chiefs anchorman Willard Katsande.
But Pagels has defended his team selection saying keeping Mukamba and Billiart on the bench was a tactical move to hold the Egyptians in the first half and then attacking them in the second using the two substitute players’ mobility.
Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association member Colins Dhivhala is one of the few supporting Pagels. He those calling for the German coach to be sacked need to understand that the mentor’s job is to build a strong team for future tournaments, including the qualifiers for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations and not the 2014 world cup.
Pagels has been in charge of the Warriors for only two competitive matches. Both were against Egypt with the Warriors narrowly losing the first game 2-1 in Alexandria on March 26.
Former coach Rahman Gumbo was in charge of the Warriors in their first two World Cup matches, a 1-0 loss to Guinea and a draw against Mozambique.
The 4-2 defeat by the Pharaohs ended Zimbabwe’s slim chances of qualifying for the World Cup finals in Brazil in June next year. With two matches remaining the Egyptians appear well on course for a place in the final qualifying round with 12 points from four games.
Zimbabwe is at the bottom of the four team table with one point. Guinea, who hammered Mozambique 6-1 in Conakry, is in second position with seven points while Mozambique is third on two points.
The next round of the World Cup qualifying matches continues this week when the Warriors travel to Guinea. Mozambique is at home against Egypt.