Battle of tactics
Such are high stakes in tomorrow’s Standard Bank Knock-Out Cup final Be Forward Wanderers, technical director, Yasin Osman, does not fancy giving Malawi News his pre-match analysis of the game.
“That will be giving away some clues to Civo. Let us talk after the game,” the media-friendly veteran coach insisted during the week.
However, it is certain that this final will no doubt pit two up-and-coming coaches, who seem to be redefining tactics on the domestic scene.
Civo coach Oscar Kaunda and his Wanderers opposite number, Elia Kananji, were never great players and they have basic coaching badges, but their transition into coaching has been interesting.
Predictability does not exist in Kananji’s vocabulary, so expect him to tinker especially on fielding.
He has tried the partnership Victor Nyirenda and Muhamad Sulumba upfront, then Nyirenda and Luka Milanzi.
With a deep squad, he has opted for rotation instead of a first 11.
This probably explains the lack of consistency in league.
Tomorrow, you just never know whether it is Ibrahim Sadiki playing on the left wing or whether Mike Kaziputa will reclaim his avenue.
In central midfield, Malumbo Gondwe, Jacob Ngwira can be surprise starters at the expense of Alfred Manyozo Junior.
Kondwani Kumwenda has been playing as an attacker in the last two games, but barely last month Milanzi seemed to have made that role a personal effect. With Kananji you just do not know who will play and where.
Tactically, he can decide to start with his strongest arsenal or, as he did when beating Blue Eagles 1-0 in the semifinal, reserve his weapon for the second half to surprise opponents.
However, there are certain players you can expect to always start.
Richard Chipuwa in goals, Kondwani Lufeyo and Stanley Sanudi are definite defence starters and so is winger Isaac Kaliyati.
Wanderers have big centre forwards, Nyirenda and Sulumba, so the idea is to pick them out first time with long balls to exploit their aerial prowess. Wanderers have no reliable scorer to do the job week-in, and week-out.
Plan B is to attack through the middle using quick inter-play, which the likes of Kumwenda and Milanzi provide.
But if plan B fails to work, Wanderers seem clueless. And that is where Civo could hurt them. Civo have no big name players, but work like a unit.
Kananji has within five years of top-flight coaching clinched the TNM Super League and two Carlsberg cups, including with Big Bullets. Now, he is on the cusp of a third top-league career trophy.
Like with Kananji, you just never know who will play where at Civo. In goals, Duncan Mkandawire can start, but there is also Innocent Phiri.
“I go for players that follow my instructions to the letter. It does not matter whether they are young or old,” Kaunda said.
Raphael Phiri’s brace floored Big Bullets in the semifinal, but going into the final, it can be Charles Chirembo leading the line.
Nelson Kangunje is the team’s heart-beat, but you can never undermine the role of Dan Msimuko in harrassing opponents in midfield.
Wing backs such as Wyson Nkana do the attacking, sweeper Emmanuel Zoya can hurt with his long throw-ins and authority at the back.
Patience Kalumo has the patience to be deployed as a number 4, yet in some games, he can be reserved from the bench and in others, play in a holding midfield role.
“I go for versatility. We do not have to limit ourselves to one position. I opt for players who can even in the course of games change positions without tampering with out shape and discipline. I was also like that as a player,” Kaunda explained.
Kaunda is yet to win silverware while at the helm as Civo head coach, but as an assistant coach, he came close to winning Standard Bank Cup in 2009 and 2010 after losing in the final to Azam Tigers and Moyale Barracks respectively.
Then after being sacked, Kaunda did his best with modest Kabwafu getting to Carlsberg Cup semifinal.
Now recalled to boyhood club Civo, Kaunda has survived early season blues to steady the ship that saw them go eight league games without a win.
In Kaunda and Kananji you have a breath of fresh air. A sharp departure from the usual predictability that characterise most coaches when it comes to fielding, formations and the pyschology of the game.
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