Will goalscoring struggles undermine Platinum FC's continental campaign?


FC Platinum begin their CAF Champions League campaign against Angola's C.D. Primeiro de Agosto as the new standard bearers of Zimbabwean football, but will a lack of cutting edge cost them dear in continental competition?

Despite the talk of a spot in the group stages - and even of a faint title tilt - it remains to be seen whether the ambitious Zvishavane-based outfit have the firepower to see off the Angolans, let alone either Bidvest Wits or Mauritians Pamplemousses FC in the next round.

For that dream to become reality though, Mapeza's men will need to overcome the Angolans and set up a possible first round tussle against South African champions Bidvest Wits, who face Mauritius' Pamplemousses in the preliminary round.

Coach Norman Mapeza struck a defiant tone in the lead to Sunday's showdown in Luanda, playing down his team's lukewarm preseason form and assuring fans that things will improve once the real action begins.

However, it's hard to overlook the fact that they scored just once across three matches against Zambians Zanaco and Nkana Red Devils, and Mozambican side Ferroviario de Beira.

"It is preseason and mistakes are bound to happen," Mapeza told the local press after the goalless draw with Nkana. "The guys are not sharp yet but in terms of performance, I think we are now ready.

"If you look at our game against Ferroviario, there were so many opportunities, we could have won by two or three goals.

"That we are creating chances is a positive sign," he added. "Against Zanaco we had so many opportunities especially in the first half and that was good sign again."

However, Mapeza's apparent confidence in his existing options wasn't reflected in his subsequent transfer dealings, as he promptly went out to sign forward Farai Mupasiri from rivals Shabanie.

It remains to be seen whether the arrival of Mupasiri can solve Platinum's preseason profligacy, a theme that's carried over from their title-winning campaign when they scored just 40 goals in 34 matches.

They may have got away with it in the Zimbabwe PSL last term, but they will be punished if they fail to make their chances count in continental competition.

Mupasiri is not eligible to play on Sunday, but the omission of two foreign strikers, roped in ostensibly to solve the team's goalscoring woes but overlooked for the clash with Primeiro de Agosto threatens to leave Platinum short.

Cameroonian teenager Albert Eyonde and Zambia's Shadreck Mayembe have been left behind, and Platinum will have to depend largely on the same strikers who misfired badly last term.

It may be that it's tactical approach and not personnel that's posing problems for Platinum.

While the Miners typically dominate possession in ZPSL competition, their players can be guilty of knocking the ball around delightfully - often in their own half - without taking risks and playing the kind of penetrating passes that could open up an opposition defence.

Barring a radical shift in approach, Platinum may fail to ensure that their output reflects their overall dominance.

It's down to Mapeza to strike a balance between the need to retain possession and the imperative to take the fight to the enemy and create goalscoring chances.

With a paucity of options up front, this becomes even more important.

It will also be interesting to see what kind of impact newly recruited midfielders Never Tigere and Rahman Kutsanzira will have at the champions, who were hardly short-staffed in this position last term.

Brian Muzondiwa and Ishmael Wadi were released, but Mapeza still has at his disposal the likes of Brett Amidu, Marshal Mudehwe, Gift Mbweti and Rodwell Chinyengetere, who ought to be able to hurt Angola.

On the plus side, Platinum's defence has been watertight, and the hope is that a little more sharpness upfront could see them past the two opening rounds and rubbing shoulders with Africa's heavyweights in the group stages.