WARRIORS captain — Knowledge Musona — showed for the umpteenth time why he wears the team’s armband by rising to the occasion to deliver another flawless performance when his troops needed his leadership the most.
Zimbabwe’s Number 17 was in the thick of things and got heavily involved in the squad’s stunning comeback when they overturned a 0-2 deficit to force a 2-2 stalemate against title holders — Algeria — in a 2021 Afcon Group H qualifier at National Sports Stadium on Monday. In imperious form on the afternoon, the Smiling Assassin scored one and created the other goal.
Musona’s Monday stellar act was just one of the several which have come to epitomise his game during this run. His story so far in the ongoing qualifiers has been compelling and difficult to ignore. While much of the spotlight may fall on a game-winning strike by a forward or a breath-taking match-defining save by the shot stopper, Musona has been a smooth operator in going about his business.
The K.A.S Eupen forward has been the source of all of Zimbabwe’s five goals during this campaign. He has been directly involved in all the strikes — scoring one, laying three assists and getting involved in the build-up to another. To open his account, Musona provided two killer passes for ‘partner-in-crime’ Khama Billiat as the latter’s brace secured victory for Zimbabwe away to Zambia in the opening encounter.
The first was a corner kick swung into enemy territory, which Khama connected with a flashing header as the Warriors raced into the lead.
The second one was sumptuous and would have turned even the deified Lionel Messi green with envy as Musona deftly chest-controlled a lofted pass from midfield, before pricking a pocket between two Chipolopolo defenders to neatly tuck a pass to Billiat who made no mistake to restore the visitors’ advantage.
In the second game, a 0-0 draw with Botswana at home, Knowledge’s fingerprints were all over it. It had to take the agility of the Zebras’ goalkeeper who went airborne to acrobatically tip the Zimbabwean attacker’s free-kick over the bar. Musona turned provider again in match-day three when he played striker Tino Kadewere through to lob home Zimbabwe’s face saver when they were humbled 1-3 by Algeria last Thursday.
Then came the home show on Monday. The country’s talisman dazzled again.
There are instances where he could have done better in that contest, but he still delivered. His sweet free kick to half Algeria’s lead was purely sublime. This came after his earlier effort had cannoned off the woodwork with goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi frenetically clutching thin air.
With Zimbabwe chasing the game in hot pursuit of an equaliser, Musona’s corner was flicked into the path of super substitute — Prince Dube — whose shot was fumbled into the nets by the goalie. The captain then shifted playing positions and finished the match as a right-back.
This attests the Aces Youth Academy graduand’s versatility as a utility player. The emergence of Kadewere and Prince Dube has inevitably brought about a change of playing positions for the captain as he sometimes drops into midfield or drifts out wide.
Indeed, as alluded to by his name, Musona continues to show his knowledge of the game. While he may no longer be the team’s focal point of attack, he still reserves and serves something special for the nation. Without doubt, Knowledge remains one of the leading lights in the squad. If he is not banging in goals, he turns himself into an assist king.
As proof of how his game continues to evolve, Knowledge has become the team’s dead-ball specialist. In the reverse fixture against Algeria, the glorious opportunities Kadewere and Khama spurned had come off his deadly boot. Such potency makes him an ever lingering goal threat. His assists tally would, therefore, have been more superior if his striker partners were more clinical with the chances he created.
While his performances have not been entirely otherworldly at times, they have nonetheless been good enough to get the job done and push his team’s cause.
If Zimbabwe sails through to the Afcon finals, history will record Musona as the second captain after the legendary Peter Ndlovu to lead the team to the tournament for two consecutive editions.