Thursday, March 4, 2021

AFCON qualifiers: Another reality check for the Zebras

In the draw which was conducted in Cairo, Egypt on April 8, the Zebras were pitted in the same group with Burkina Faso, Uganda and lightweights Comoros. On paper, Burkina Faso are clear favourites to sweep aside their opponents. But in the past, the Zebras have managed to shock the continent by upsetting the likes of Tunisia and Togo. On any given day, the Zebras are no match against Burkina Faso and to some extent, the fast improving Uganda.

But some football experts believe that if Coach, Peter Butler, plays his cards accordingly, a second showing at the tournament in five years is not a far-fetched dream. Some argue that if Butler puts aside his arrogance and selects well deserving players in the team, the nation would be smiling come end of the qualifiers in June 2016.
When responding to the draw, Mochudi Centre Chiefs’ mouthpiece Clifford Mogomotsi said, “it will be stupid to think that this is going to be an easy group for us. We’re going to have to dig deeper in order to come top of the group but we’re capable. What is important for the coach is to pick the right players for the qualifiers.”

Famous South African football journalist Cebo Manyaapelo shared the same sentiments with Mogomotsi that the Zebras can make it out of the group. “On paper, it is a tough group but it possible that the Zebras can win the group. The only problem i’ve realised is that in the past the Zebras were let down by their selection. If you do everything right, I’ve no doubt that you can qualify,” said Manyaapelo.

The Motsweding fm journalist who has covered African football over three decades pointed out that Burkina Faso will be the team to beat in the group. “If you beat Burkina Faso, you are as good as having qualified for the tournament. The approach against Burkinabe will be very important. As for Uganda, they’ve proven to be bad travellers and I’ve no doubt that the Zebras can beat them in Gaborone. Yes, Uganda have improved tremendously as evidenced in their recent friendly match against Nigeria (where they won 1-0) but I still fancy Zebras can beat them. As for Comoros, it is a matter of the Zebras collecting maximum points. But like I said earlier, it will depend on the Zebras’ preparations,” Manyaapelo said.

Former BMC head coach Daniel ‘Chicco’ Nare said the Zebras have received a fair draw but it is unfortunate that the team has not been stable. Nare fails to understand why Butler is still building a winning team hence he has been on the job for 15 months. “What is happening right now with our team is confusing. We don’t even know if we’ll have a strong team for the qualifiers,” said Nare.

The Zebras open the qualifiers with a tricky fixture away to Uganda at the Nelson Mandela National Stadium in Kampala on the weekend of 12-14 June. The Zebras will then come back home on the weekend of 04-06 September to entertain group favourites Burkina Faso at the National Stadium.

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