BY HENRY MHARA
FC PLATINUM might have disappointed in the Caf Champions League once again this season, but the team has picked a lot of positives which they say will be useful in the future.
The Zimbabwean champions are bottom of Group B with a point from five winless matches going into the last group match against Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia at the Rades Olympic Stadium tonight.
Coach Hendrik Pieter de Jongh, who is taking charge of the team on the continent for the second game, said although their chances of progression to the knockout stage had long since disappeared, the match was important as it was part of their learning process ahead of the new season. FC Platinum will again represent the country in the next Caf Champions League season which begins in August.
“The first thing is that the boys should enjoy the trip, and to learn for the next season of the Champions League. It is important that in every match we learn from mistakes and try to correct them in the next game,” De Jongh said on arrival in Tunis.
FC Platinum lost 1-0 at home to Al Hilal of Sudan last Saturday, conceding a late goal to Mohamed Eid to suffer a fourth defeat from five outings. Their only point came from a 1-1 draw at home to Al Ahly of Egypt early last month.
“Our last game against Al Hilal was a very good game although we didn’t get a good result. On Saturday, we have a big game to play. We will try to make an upset because the opponent is expected to win. It’s a big team. We have nothing to lose, we have everything to win. Let us go for a good result, and a good result is a draw or a win.”
De Jongh’s side has scored just two goals in the campaign, and their attacking department could be their biggest let down.
However, FC Platinum general manager Joseph Mususa believes that their disappointing campaign is due to lack of luck.
“We are making progress and the scoreline sometimes doesn’t do justice to the performance of the boys. We have been playing beautiful soccer, but usually tend to lose when we think we are pressing and we are caught by a counter-attack. By and large we are playing well, it’s just a matter of time before we start posting favourable results,” Mususa said.
Bottom of the group, the match against Etoile is a dead rubber for the Zvishavane side, but for Mususa, there is a lot to play for.
“The motivation is to get our first win in the group. And secondly should we win we will improve our ranking on the continent. It also benefits the nation because Caf might decide to give us an extra slot in terms of team representation in the competition in the 2021 edition.”
The team left Harare on Wednesday evening and endured a 12-hour flight to Dubai before connecting three hours later on another four-hour trip to Tunis. The home side will be looking to win the match and progress to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Kick-off is at 9pm.
The Tunisians are second on the Group B log on nine points – one behind Ahly and level with third-placed Al Hilal (but ranked ahead of the Sudanese side on head-to-head record).
Etoile know that a win guarantees them a place in the final eight of the competition alongside the likes of TP Mazembe, Zamalek, Mamelodi Sundowns, Wydad Casablanca, Esperance de Tunis and Raja Casablanca.
A draw or even a defeat could also be enough to progress, depending on the result of the other Group B game between Hilal and Ahly played simultaneously in Omdurman, but Etoile will be determined to keep their fate in their own hands by winning this match. In the reverse match, Etoile beat FC Platinum 3-0.
Champions League fixtures today
Group A: TP Mazembe v Zesco United, CD Primeiro de Agosto v Zamalek
Group B: Etoile du Sahel v FC Platinum, Al Hilal v Al Ahly
Group C: Mamelodi Sundowns v Wydad Casablanca, USM Alger v Petro de Luanda
Group D: Raja Casablanca v DC Motema Pembe, JS Kabylie v Esperance of Tunisia