Broos and Logarusic braced for southern Africa derby

Hugo Broos

·       Group G of the African qualifiers features South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Ethiopia

·       Neighbours Zimbabwe and South Africa face off in Harare on Friday

·       The two coaches discuss the match and the qualifiers in general

South Africa have appeared at three FIFA World Cup™ competitions: France 1998, Korea/Japan 2002, and the tournament they hosted in 2010. They then proceeded to miss out on qualification for Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018, the first time in many years they had missed back-to-back world finals.

It was after these disappointments and the defeat to Sudan that cost them a place at next year’s CAF Africa Cup of Nations that Bafana Bafana chose to appoint Hugo Broos. The Belgian coach has pedigree, having steered a much-weakened Cameroon side to glory at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and acquired a reputation for putting competitive sides together.

“The squad underwent a complete overhaul, with a lot of young players coming in, which is why we didn’t make the Africa Cup of Nations and came last in our group in the Russia 2018 qualifiers,” Broos told FIFA.com, explaining the problems South Africa have been facing. “We’ve had one generation go and a new one come in.

“We’ve put our faith in the youngsters, who are at the start of their footballing careers. They’re not looking to the past but the future. Young players like to show what they can do and they want to win things. I went through a similar process with Cameroon, building a new squad that no one believed in but which went on to win the African title. That’s why I want this team to have ambition.”

Harare showdown

South Africa begin their latest World Cup qualification quest on Friday, when they travel to Harare to take on Group G rivals Zimbabwe.

“We’re coming up against teams who’ve all qualified for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations [to be held in Cameroon in January/February 2022], so they’re all strong,” said the Belgian, giving his views on the section. “Ghana are Cup of Nations regulars and they’ve reached a lot of World Cups lately. I’ve had a good look at Zimbabwe and Ethiopia too and they seem to have a lot of potential. Zimbabwe are neighbours of ours and there’s no doubt they’ll be keen to beat us. Ethiopia could be the surprise package of the group. They’re strong at home, in front of their own fans.”

Looking ahead to the Zimbabwe game, he added: “Derbies are always tough, for both teams. We’re playing away, though the stands will be empty, which is good for us, as there’s a big difference between playing in front of a crowd in Harare and playing without one. That doesn’t mean to say that we’re going to underestimate our opponents, though. I’ve seen Zimbabwe’s games in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, against Algeria, for example. They’re a strong side and it’s not going to be easy, but we’ll just try to focus on what we can do.”

Zdravko-Logarusic-coach-of-Zimbabwe

Realism mixed with ambition

The closest Zimbabwe have ever come to making the world finals was the qualifiers for USA 1994, when they lost their last match, against Cameroon, and kissed goodbye to a debut appearance at the tournament.

Twenty-seven years on, the Zimbabweans are determined not to suffer the same disappointment on the road to Qatar 2022.

Too close to call

Sizing up the group, Logarusic said: “There’s very little between the teams and there’s no clear favourite. If you look at their records, Ghana and South Africa are the teams to beat, but that doesn’t mean anything out on the pitch because anyone can win. I think Zimbabwe have just as much chance as the others because we’re all evenly matched. Anything can happen in 90 minutes.” Assessing his side’s group opener against the South Africans, he said: “Their record in the competition suggests they’re the favourites but the reality on the pitch is entirely different. It’s up for grabs and either side can win. That’s what we’ll be fighting to do.”

 “It was a long time ago but people don’t forget it,” commented their coach, Zdravko Logarusic, in conversation with FIFA.com. “But what happened all those years ago doesn’t impact on today because football has changed and we’ve got new qualifying formats now. We respect all our opponents, but we’ll do all we can and more to reach the final round.”

Qualification dreams

Like every other national team on the planet, Zimbabwe have had to contend with the pandemic, which has seriously affected their plans.

“What with coronavirus and travel restrictions, we’ve had problems with our preparations over the last year and with monitoring our overseas-based players,” said Logarusic. “We managed to play the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and we came up against Algeria twice, which gave us some kind of preparation for the World Cup preliminaries.”

The Croatian coach has every confidence in his side, however: “We’ve got a talented generation of players, though we have picked up a few injuries. Khama Billiat was out for a long time and only made it back at the end of the season. Our captain Knowledge Musona was out for a few weeks too. They’re our attacking partnership and they’ve not had much football lately. We’ve got plenty of other good players, though, like Tino Kadewere, who’s doing well in France, and Marvelous Nakamba, who’s shown what he can do at Aston Villa. We hope they can help Zimbabwe raise their game on the big occasion.”

Logarusic is dreaming of taking Zimbabwe to Qatar: “It’s wonderful for any coach to take part in the World Cup. I’ll be making all my experience and my footballing knowledge available to the country so we can achieve something amazing. Why can’t we go to the World Cup? If you don’t dream, you lose. The Zimbabwean people have a dream and I want to make it happen. That’s why we need to dream together and work together, so we can make it and play at the World Cup.”

FIFA.com