Botswana’s national Under 17continued with their fine form after holding North African soccer giants, Algeria, to a one-all draw at the Molepolole Sports Complex on Friday. The match was the first leg of the Africa Youth Championships qualifiers billed for Morocco early next year. The results, however, mean that Botswana has to triple their efforts in the return leg on the second of December if they are to qualify for the championships.
This is due to the away-goal rule, which currently favours Algeria because they managed to score in Botswana.
Nevertheless, both teams had golden opportunities’ throughout the match and they fluffed them.
Botswana showed character that proved that their defeat of Malawi and Rwanda was not a fluke. With about five minutes left before half time, Botswana was dealt a heavy blow after Kabelano Mooketsane was sent off for a dangerous play on an Algerian player. The sending off left many Batswana angry because they believed the referee was too harsh and should have instead cautioned the player.
The sending off proved to be a blessing as Botswana players fought like wounded buffaloes so much that one would not notice that they were one man down.
Algeria started taking the game to Botswana but it proved dangerous for them because Botswana had to rely on count attacks. It paid off 20 minutes into the second half when pint-sized Tlokweng born striker, Thatayaone Ramatapeng, outpaced the Algerians and unleashed a powerful grass cutter that left Algerian goalie, Soufi Kamel, sprawling on the turf.
Botswana’s celebrations were, however, short-lived as Algeria equalized through an easy goal. They profited from a failure by young Zebras defence to clear the ball inside the box. That resulted in a scramble and the ball found substitute Sbaihia Adelkadir, who easily slotted in.
After the goal both side were cautious in launching attacks until the final whistle.
Credit must go to Botswana goalkeeper, Keleagile Kgosipula, and his defence as they thwarted many dangerous moves from the North Africans.
After the match, Young Zebras coach, Kagiso Kobedi, praised his team for a job well done. But he pointed a finger at the referee for denying Botswana an easy victory, saying he was biased throughout the match.
“If it was not for the referee we could have easily beaten the Algerians. They are not strong compared to Rwanda and Malawi. They are an ordinary team and I am optimistic we will beat them in their own backyard. We know how they play now and we will plan around that. Before this match, they already knew us but I have faith in my boys that they will produce miracles in the second leg. The referee was terrible and he denied us an opportunity to win this match,” he said.
The winner between the two sides qualifies for the championships in Morocco. This means the away match in Algeria will indeed be a do or die encounter.
If Botswana makes it to Morocco, it will be the third time the country goes for the Under 17 championships.
The first time was in 1995 in Mali and 1997 in Botswana.