Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
IN what is a repeat of the 2011 final, neighbours Zimbabwe and South Africa clash in the Council of Southern African Football Women’s Championships decider which promises lots of fireworks at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
Rufaro Machingura scored the solitary goal to give Zimbabwe their maiden Cosafa women’s title back then. Banyana Banyana had won all the previous Cosafa Women’s Championships and were favourites heading into the final but the home team, motivated by a huge crowd at Rufaro held on to become regional champions for the first time.
Mighty Warriors coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15”, Sibanda, a member of the squad which lost the 2002 final said all they need is a good tactical approach this afternoon.
“Football, its scientific things are changing, we just need to have a good tactical approach in terms of that game, history doesn’t count, these are new players, we will have a different approach on it and hopefully our tactics on that particular day work,’’ Sibanda said.
On which areas she expected her girls to improve on this afternoon, Sibanda pointed to the physical response and mental strength to act in response to circumstances.
“Physically maybe the reaction could be much better and also I think the mental strength really to react to situations and also maybe on transition especially looking at situations like where there are restarts we have to react quickly and organise quickly,’’ she said.
Zimbabwe, who had their further progress in the tournament hanging by a thread following a 3-3 draw with Malawi at Luveve, last Sunday, had no mercy on Kenya last Thursday, thrashing the guests from east African 4-0 to book their place in the final. The competition top-scorer Rutendo Makore, Berita Kabwe, Marjory Nyaumwe and Privilege Mupeti were on target for the Mighty Warriors.
Earlier on in the day, South Africa launched an incredible fight back to beat Zambia 5-3 on penalties. Desiree Ellis’ lasses came back from 3-0 down with 15 minutes to go to overpower Shepolopolo.
Today’s final will certainly not be an easy affair for either team. While South Africa, the most successful women’s team in the region, will be seeking their fourth Cosafa title, Zimbabwe would want to halt them while looking to be crowned champions for the third time.
Makore has banged in nine goals in the tournament and is certainly the player to watch out for in today’s final. Nyaumwe, Makore, Mupeti and Sheila Makoto have been the stand-out performers for the Talent Mandaza-led Mighty Warriors.
For Banyana Banyana, versatile veteran Noko Matlou, skipper Refiloe Jane and Leandra Smeda are the players to watch out for. Jane and Smeda inspired the comeback against Zambia.
With entry being free for the tournament, the people of Bulawayo came out in their huge numbers for the semi-finals with even a bigger crowd expected for today’s final and Zifa vice-president and LOC chairman Omega Sibanda, in paying tribute to Bulawayo football fans, urged them to come in numbers for the final again.
“We are in the final as hosts and we are happy as Zifa and Cosafa that Bulawayo people have supported women’s football. They have come in numbers since day one and we urge them to come and fill up Barbourfields for the final on Sunday. We need to motivate the girl child and also show the world that we are capable of hosting tournaments of this nature,” he said.
An incredible 96 goals have been scored in the 20 matches that were played up to last Thursday and more are expected in the final. Whatever the outcome of the match, one thing that is certain this afternoon is that they will be no new name on the trophy as any of the two past winners will have their country’s name engraved on the piece of silverware at the end of it all.
Meanwhile, Zambia clinched the bronze medal at the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Championship with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory over east African guest nation Kenya after the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Barbourfields Stadium yesterday.