THE superiority enjoyed in midfield by the Flames of Malawi over the Warriors in the first leg of the Cosafa Castle Cup final last Saturday could be the dec
ider in the second leg in Harare on Sunday.
The midfield weakness may see the Warriors let the regional trophy slip through their fingers at the National Sports Stadium, notwithstanding their seemingly comfortable 2-1 cushion from the first leg played in Blantyre.
Coach Sunday Marimo needs to come up with a solution to the pathetic performance by the midfield lest the nation would be embarrassed.
And, the problem lies in Marimo’s religiously preferred 3-5-2 formation. Not at all that the formation is unworkable – it is the mainstay in the German Bundesliga, and teams from the league are renowned for their prowess in Europe.
They are extremely difficult to penetrate and at the same time possess fluidity that enables them to pile pressure on opponents.
The problem with the Warriors is the material available for Marimo, vis-à-vis his 3-5-2 formation.
The logic behind the formation is having two midfielders operating on the flanks, whose major role is to readily appear in both the attacking and defending strategies of the team. They would be roving throughout the match.
In last week’s match, Charles Yohane and Bhekhithemba Ndlovu played in these positions.
When the team is attacking, they should quickly move into the middle third and join the other three midfielders. The roving midfielders would be expected to go right down to the last third – the opponents’ goal area – with the hope that they produce crosses into the area. If anything, the duo rarely sent crosses into the Malawian goal area.
As soon as the team loses possession, the midfielders, together with their other three colleagues would be expected to promptly recover and help the three central defenders curb the attacks, which in most cases would be counter.
Now, in the case of a team such as Malawi, which in the first leg employed a 4-4-2 formation, they would enjoy a numerical advantage over the Warriors in midfield as soon as they gain possession.
That is at a time when Yohane and Ndlovu would still be trying to recover their positions, or would not at all have ventured upfront but stayed in the rear. The opponents would therefore almost always go past the Warriors’ midfield, as happened in Blantyre, thereby consistently piling pressure on Energy Murambadoro’s goal.
That explains why Murambadoro had busy afternoons in both the semi-final match against Swaziland and last week’s encounter.
The moment the Warriors gain possession, either through defending the opponents’ raids, or the ball having gone out for goal kick, they automatically have to launch their own version of attack.
Murambadoro, or any of the defenders in possession of the ball usually pumps it upfront where the two twin strikers are manned by at least three defenders, and the outcome is almost definite – an immediate backlash into the Warriors’ danger zone.
On the other hand, the few occasions that the Warriors midfielders – Esrom Nyandoro, Ronald Sibanda and Richard Choruma – gained possession, they failed to produce much because of the numerical disadvantage both in the middle of the park as well as upfront.
It is difficult to remember at all the Warriors midfielders and strikers managing to knit three passes without losing possession.
Ndlovu and Yohane, who would be expected to quickly rush into the middle third and beef up the attack were forced to keep in the rear by the consistency with which the Malawians besieged the Warriors’ danger zone.
Led by veteran captain John Maduka, dictating the pace in midfield, while the gangling Russel Mafulirwa, who scored their goal last week always looked dangerous on the ball, the Flames are likely to pour into the Warriors’ danger zone right from the first whistle.
And if Marimo’s midfield shortcomings are not attended to, the visitors may turn the tables on Sunday.