ZIMBABWE legend and Warriors assistant coach Peter Ndlovu has issued a passionate public apology to the nation following the hugely disappointing fashion in which they tumbled out of the 2013 African Cup of Nations at the hands of Angola last Sunday. The Warriors conspired to plunge the nation into mourning when they let slip what appeared to be a comfortable 3-1 first leg lead they had achieved in Harare on September 9.
Instead of holding out to frustrate the Palancas Negras, as largely expected, the Warriors capitulated in just the opening six minutes in the heat of Luanda and were sent crashing out of the tournament following a brace by Angola skipper Manucho.
Ndlovu, who captained the Warriors to their only two previous Nations Cup appearances, acknowledged that the team had let the whole nation down after snoozing for "five mad minutes". Peter had been hoping to make it to three Nations Cup tournaments in different capacities.
Yesterday the Warriors legend stood in for coach Rahman Gumbo as he faced the local media and offered his team's apology for the Luanda disaster. Despite the uncertainty facing their continued stay in the Warriors dressing room, Ndlovu — who is also the national Under-23 coach — said he remained hopeful of soldiering on as part of the Warriors technical team and challenged Zifa to develop the Young Warriors who will form the bedrock for the future senior side.
"We have to realise that we are talking about a very bad day for the country as far as football was concerned on Sunday,'' Ndlovu said. Ndlovu said the players failed to concentrate in the opening stages of the match.
"I do not know how to put it when you are so near yet you are so far. It's bad.
"But without taking away anything from the boys, everything was okay, the game plan, the weather, the travelling arrangements but I think we just lost the plot within these five minutes where we did not concentrate.
"I can't say we played badly in those five minutes but we just lacked concentration," said Ndlovu. Ndlovu called on the nation not to forsake the team at this time. "So the only thing we have to say is sorry to the public. We are sorry for the result. We take full responsibility of the result," said Ndlovu.
In selecting their troops for the battle on Sunday, Ndlovu said they had picked the strongest possible squad for the assignment. "I have heard reports in some sections that the team lacked experience but in my opinion we picked the most experienced team. "The personnel we fielded was the most experienced and we had some of the big names in the Zimbabwean strikeforce.
"But at the end of the day it did not happen. One or two players were off form or did not start well, but we tried to get at least a goal. Without condemning my players, I think we played well but the result was not pleasing. However, we are not going to run away from the fact that we take full responsibility, " said Ndlovu.
Sitting on a 3-1 lead from the first leg, Ndlovu said their strategy in Luanda was to defend their advantage.
"But in order to defend, we did not want to sit back and invite trouble. We did not want our opponents to smell that we were afraid, so we went to attack. Our team had five attack-minded players."
"Angola got their goals, which I could say came out of sheer determination or luck but we also took a cautious approach. We never conceded more goals after that but actually tried to get back. The team had good chances with Khama coming alive in the second half," said Ndlovu.
He said if he could turn back the hands of time he would change the script in the opening stages of the game when they failed to contain Palancas Negras talisman Manucho.
"When one team is attacking the other team is bound to defend. We lost the plot in those five mad minutes and we are sorry," said Ndlovu. Ndlovu said he would not be tempted to throw in the towel because of the defeat in Luanda. I have a job to do and until such time that I am displaced, we look to the future and working together as a team.
"We started this job which has ended but I am sure until we hear otherwise we are willing to carry on. We were almost there and the will is still there," said Ndlovu. In my capacity as the Under-23 coach and the assistant coach for the Warriors, I think we should start to look at the future. The future lies in building up a team for the future."
"We should not continue to cry over spilt milk. I believe that if we can get the resources, we can plan ahead and build a team especially with the Young Warriors," said Ndlovu. Questions have also been asked over ageing players in the squad, but Ndlovu insisted they would continue to pick players on merit.
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