BY STEVE AYOO
Golden boot winner Paul Nyerere netted a first half hat-trick as Tanzania were crowned the 2019 Copa Africa Cup champions, trouncing Zimbabwe 6-2 in the final at the Mpesa Foundation Academy in Thika.
The four day tournament came to a conclusion Thursday (5) with the junior Kilimanjaro Stars taking a deserved gold as their tears of near semifinal exit against dethroned champions Kenya was replaced with ecstacy, joy and celebration.
That they rattled the crossbar thrice and still held a 5-1 lead at the interval was testament enough of Tanzania’s supremacy not only in the final against Zimbabwe but in the entire 12-team tournament.
As has been the story of their campaign, every goal was a craft, some elite level of poetry that even fellow finalists Zimbabwe struggled to decode, despite drawing first blood through Inasio Perelo – a regrettable act in foresight.
But with a lad called Nyerere as their lead man upfront, we perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised at the manner in which Tanzania marched forward.
Three expertly taken goals by the bulky built attacker in the first half had the game wrapped up even before it could start. The golden boot was also safely acclaimed with 7 goals.
His speed, power, trickery, agility and ambidexterity has been an envy to the opposition but a crucial arsenal to his team and it proved again in the final.
He was loving the big occasion as he drew his side level and then nudged them ahead before his teammates joined the party, Haroun Ndile and Mohamed Rai both thumping home to make it 4-1.
Nyerere ensured he would be the one to sign off in the first half as he picked a poor clearance from the Zimbabwean defence, opened his body and tucked home his third and Tanzania’s fifth just before the break.
Zimbabwe missed a penalty immediately after the interval and were punished on the other end as Boniface Rafael drilled home the sixth for the would be champions.
The beauty about the new crowned champions was in how they never pulled their feet off the gas even when the game had been put to bed. Their hunger for goals remained constant, the craftiness, increasingly filthy.
No letting up
Even with such an unassailable lead, complacency was frowned upon in the Tanzanian bench, something that Frank Sefania learned when he was shouted at for going for a nutmeg in the middle of the park and losing possession in the process.
They preferred that in extreme conditions, their players ‘toa uchafu‘ (cleared the ball).
Credit to Zimbabwe though. They never let their shoulders drop even in the face of such adversity.
They won two penalties after the interval, missing the first one before their keeper Ronald Uraya stepped forward to take the second one which he converted to cut the lead to 6-2.
The Junior Warriors could have made the losing margin more respectable as they created further chances with Tanzania showing signs of rustiness and fatigue. However, poor finishing worked against them as they slumped to the heavy defeat which perhaps shouldn’t hurt much as they lost to the best team of the 2019 Copa Africa Cup.
Earlier, Kenya were beaten to the second runners-up spot after going down 2-1 to Zambia.
Despite losing the biggest team prize, Zimbabwe got the biggest individual award as Luke Musikiri was named the tournament MVP.
Zambia’s Mathews Mwamba took home the golden glove, having conceded only four times in a goal-laden tournament that witnessed 84 goals.