This time, it was not the usual case of so near and yet so far as the Warriors were never even close to qualification. The 2-1 defeat left the Zimbabweans in third place as Mali finished as the winners and qualifiers on 11 points followed by Cape Verde on 10 points and Zimbabwe way behind on eight points.
The Warriors have missed out on a huge cash payout in which the Zimbabwe Football Association had offered $3 500 each player had the team beaten Cape Verde.
This is the third time in a row that the Warriors have failed to make the continental rendezvous having missed out in 2008 and 2010. Prior to that Zimbabwe had joined Africa’s top football nations at the 2004 and 2006 finals.
The Warriors also join heavyweights Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt, among those who have fallen by the wayside in the run up to the 2012 African football festival where the continent’s top 16 football nations meet. Zimbabwe are ranked 14th on the continent and were expected to make the journey.
Mali who were in the same group with the Warriors secured their path to the finals after a hard 2-1 victory in Monrovia. The Warriors had needed a victory over Cape Verde and hoped for a loss for Mali to sail through to the finals.
All sorts of suggestions and theories will be drummed up as to why the Warriors did not qualify. As the nation reflects on what has happened it is also important that they also look forward to the future as there are the World Cup qualifiers in which the Warriors were drawn in the same group with Egypt, Guinea and the winner between the Comoros and Mozambique.
For Zifa and the Warriors it is now back to the drawing to see what went wrong and what needs to be corrected.