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Valinhos Must Become His Own Man

ZIMBABWE national soccer team coach, Jose Claudinei Georgini –– otherwise known as Valinhos –– should come out of his closet and start managing the team in a way that identifies with him.


So far the Brazilian has been conservative in his playing style and selection approach: preferring long balls from the back without methodical build-ups, and recycling players used by his predecessors.

Valinhos could justify this as a result-oriented approach which has produced him two commendable results at these early stages of 2010 World Cup/African Nations Cup qualifiers — a draw away to pre-qualifiers favourites Guinea, who however currently anchor the bottom of the table — and a home win against an out-of-sorts Namibian side last weekend. But is it a result-oriented approach? I call it fear of failure. It seems Valinhos is shying away from the risks of injecting new blood into the team and introducing his own style of football lest he exposes himself.

But if he is not careful, his play-it-safe approach could have the complete opposite result: if the Warriors fail with the zero-risk style, Valinhos’ downfall will be harder than if he was a brave coach who expressed himself more and made bold decisions.

Valinhos will do himself a lot of good if he settles for his own tactics and players. If he brings out the shrewdness and fails with it, so be it. At least he would have tried. It’s a matter of principle. In fact, that is what is expected of a coach brought all the way from the Mecca of Football, Brazil.

Talking of failure at this stage may sound pessimistic to some people considering the position the Warriors find themselves in after two games. But football is a funny game as proven by the turn of events so far in the group the Warriors are. Earlier I made reference to Guinea’s defeat at the hands of Kenya, themselves losers to Namibia in their opening match.

The same fate befalling Zimbabwe cannot be ruled out if the trend of shock results is anything to go by.

Against Namibia, the team used by Valinhos was slow and lacked creativity. To start with, he didn’t use a natural playmaker. Perhaps Harlington Shereni, who played in an unusual central midfield role, was the man who was supposed to supply all the telling passes and create space for his teammates. But the France-based defender clearly does not possess these attributes.Watching the Namibia match, I got the feeling that apart from forcing selections, something is amiss in Valinhos’ team. There are some players, new or old, who are being left out.

Why force matters with Shereni when you have Vusa Nyoni in the squad, a natural playmaking midfielder?

There are also players waiting in the wings such as Ovidy Karuru. I’ve not had the opportunity to watch the Masvingo United young ace, but media colleagues whose views I trust rate him very highly. The material Valinhos currently has at his disposal does not suit the 4-4-2 formation he uses. Both his wingers — Cephas Chimedza and Joseph Ngwenya — are slow on the ball in an era where deceptive, fast and skillful wide players are used to initiate attacks.

Chimedza might have the skill, but as winger he is out of position. He could fit in at left-back where he has played before, but with young Onismor Bhasera shining in that position, his place in the team cannot be safely guaranteed.

Admittedly, Zimbabwean players are traditionally short on pace and skill, thus the organised type of football based on solid defence and counter attacking has been the preferred style by previous Warriors coaches.

But international sides such as Germany and Italy, who are renowned for this type of football, also use pace on the break to maximise the effectiveness of this otherwise defensive style. Sunday Chidzambwa used this style effectively during his reign. It worked for him because he had the crafty Ronald Sibanda in a playmaking role, and such men as Peter Ndlovu and Joel Lupahla could easily turn defense into splitting attack with their pace.

Valinhos does not have the same quality in his side; or he is ignoring it.

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