Playing self-sabotage with Musona

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IT BOGGLES the mind every time a Zimbabwe squad is named, to see the name of Knowledge Musona — the country’s most consistent and reliable goal-scorer of this generation — appearing in the midfielders’ category.

By Enock Muchinjo

For heaven’s sake, not since the great Peter Ndlovu has Zimbabwe had a striker of similar talismanic ability, able to conjure up some magic and single-handedly rescue the team from a difficult situation.

Correct, Musona is the ultimate team man, a versatile forward player, whose other key attributes — when not scoring goals — are appreciated by fans and coaches alike.

But his greatest value to the Zimbabwe team is his potency in front of goal. Time and time again Musona has come up with the goods, mostly with the Warriors’ backs against the wall.

A player able to capitalise on opportunities, with a knack for converting even half chances into goals, is the greatest asset any team can ever dream of. Musona has been the most clinical finisher this country has produced in modern times and a look at some of the gems he has put past goalkeepers bears full testimony to the man’s quality.

Many will have their favourite Musona goal in Warriors colours and his most recent classic, twisting and turning that poor DRC goalkeeper to score in Kinshasa last month, was some really wicked stuff.

Then the other beauty at the Africa Cup of Nations finals against Tunisia last year. Chesting the ball down, Musona eliminated two defenders with a clever nick, exuding composure and sublime skill to ease through between them, then — cool as you like — controlling the ball with his knee before slotting home into the corner.

But my personal favourite will remain, for now, the stunning equalising goal in 2013 in a World Cup qualifier in Egypt, where Musona, to me, established himself as a goal-poacher of great repute.

Latching onto a loose ball from the back, Musona shook off the challenge of a marker — the kind of calmness that sets him apart on full display. Ball bouncing awkwardly all over the place, but then Musona seems to somehow thrive with the ball in the air, he waited for it to come up, one last time — then timely wrapped his right foot around the ball, delightfully dipping it past the diving goalkeeper from outside the box.

To capitalise on bounce in that manner, and then getting the trajectory and direction right from such distance — whacking the ball a bit upwards and then generating the dip to beat the goalkeeper — is pure artistry and class.
It has to be a big national talking point then, in light of Tino Kadewere misfiring horribly against Liberia on Sunday, how a man of unequalled goal-scoring instinct like Musona should be given a position in the team other than the chief centre-forward role.

Kadewere does not suddenly become a bad player in the wake of his horror show in Monrovia, and Musona himself on one occasion did not convert a chance a man of his reputation would ordinarily put away. The Liberians, to their credit, also did a good job of keeping Musona relatively subdued throughout the match.

But the bottom line, for now — Kadewere’s performance a case in point — is that Zimbabwe simply does not have the luxury of Musona not being the team’s target man upfront.

Let us consider another context for a second. True, Musona has scored quite a few of his international goals from a deep-lying forward role. But that is simply because he is a good player so is always able to dig deep into his bags of talent either from a wide position or behind a preferred main striker.

But clearly, he can inflict so much more damage as the frontman in attack. Unless there is another player with an equal or better conversion rate. Of course, Musona is second to none, in this regard, among this Warriors generation.

A good coach squeezes every ounce of ability from his players. It is bewildering that such an experienced technical bench as the Warriors’ can dilute the impact of the team’s best player by withdrawing him from a role on which he can have greater influence on results.

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