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Zimbabwe coach quits, Burundi boss stays

Olivier Niyungeko last year became the first Burundi coach to qualify for an Africa Cup of Nations tournament © AFP / JAVIER SORIANO

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 20 – Joey Antipas said on Wednesday he was quitting as caretaker coach of Zimbabwe, one day after achieving the best result of his four months in charge.

Zimbabwe scored a rare victory in neighbouring Zambia on Tuesday with the 2-1 win placing them second behind defending champions Algeria in a 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group.

In other matches under Antipas, Zimbabwe drew with Botswana in the Cup of Nations and recovered from a shock loss in Somalia to beat them on aggregate in a 2022 World Cup eliminator.

He replaced fellow former international defender Sunday Chidzambwa, who quit after a winless first round exit from the 2019 Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Antipas offered no reason for leaving, saying only that he was “bowing out”, but Zimbabwe have time to weigh options with the next competitive match a 2022 World Cup qualifier in March.

Zimbabwe are ranked 29th in Africa and 117th in the world and have generally underperformed since the country gained independence 39 years ago.

Meanwhile, Burundi officials have defended coach Olivier Niyungeko after losses to the Central African Republic and Morocco in the Cup of Nations.

– ‘Complex’ –

“The problem is not coach Olivier Niyungeko, the problem with the national team is complex,” an official said without giving further details.

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Niyungeko became a national hero last year when he guided the tiny central African country to the biennial continental tournament for the first time.

But the ‘Swallows’ flopped last week, losing 2-0 away to the Central African Republic and 3-0 at home to Morocco, who punished a series of defensive blunders.

Already four points adrift of joint leaders Morocco and Mauritania, the odds are stacked against Burundi reaching successive Cup of Nations tournaments.

Another coach under pressure is Ibrahim Kamara, whose star-stacked Ivory Coast side struggled to overcome Niger, then fell to Ethiopia, a country ranked 95 places lower in the world.

Despite boasting a squad including Premier League trio Serge Aurier, Nicolas Pepe and Wilfried Zaha, the Ivorians missed a penalty before converting a second spot-kick to edge the Nigeriens.

After Aurier scored early in Ethiopia, they conceded twice in 10 minutes to lose and leave Kamara feeling uncomfortable while officials privately ponder hiring a foreign coach.

Before local Kamara was appointed, Ivory Coast hired numerous Europeans, including Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson, Bosnian Vahid Halilhodzic and Frenchman Herve Renard.

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