“We have the players who can do the job. The problem is with our coaches. Do they give the players the confidence to play the ball and build from the back? Telling the players to play long balls is inviting pressure as the ball just comes back.”
The speaker of the above words was former Flames captain Peter Mponda while sitting next to me as MBC TV 2014 World Cup analyst drawing lessons from the recent Brazil event.
There is no doubt that mismanaged transition had Flames defenders Mponda, Elvis Kafoteka and James Sangala, who has since retired from retirement, leaving the stage without understudies.
Result? The Flames defence has lacked consistent personnel to offer stability in each of the last seven uninspiring games under coach Young Chimodzi; translating to eight goals conceded and five scored.
Injuries, club commitments and a general lack of quality have forced Chimodzi to feature two new defenders in every game. Sangala, Sankhani Mkandawire and Lucky Malata featured in 0-0 draw in Uganda on July 15 2014.
On July 6 2014, Sangala and Mkandawire did not play against Mozambique. Bashir Maunde and Limbikani Mzava, who made Malawi defence in the last competitive outing in Chad on May 31 2014 are also out of today’s game in Benin. Phew!
The defensive crisis should be enough excuse for Chimodzi, but he is not paid to peddle excuses. He and his second-in command Jack Chamangwana are former star international defenders who have over 20 players to select their squad from today’s game in Benin.
Coaches such as Jose Mourinho can even make a dog play because they are good player motivators. Chimodzi needs such man-management skills.
Additionally, Gabadinho Mhango’s absence upfront does not help the Flames’ cause either.
Switching into ultra-defensive mode against Benin seems a wise strategy for Chimodzi. But, as Mponda noted, keeping possession while defending could be a wiser tactic than pumping balls upfront aimlessly.
Lest it all ends in tears and fears for this 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying campaign. n