Botswana’s second consecutive semi-final qualification for the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup, hangs in the balance. This is so because Botswana is in the same group as African giants, Angola, the team Botswana is yet to beat in international competitions. Angola has in the past found it easy against the Zebras. This time around chances of Botswana meeting Angola are high because Angola is going to start with lowly placed Lesotho on August 11 in Gaborone before the Zebras engage Namibia. Both Botswana and Angola look poised to progress to the semi-finals because Botswana has, in the past, also found it easy against the Brave Warriors of Namibia. The most recent game between Botswana and Namibia was just a fortnight ago, a friendly game at the national stadium.
Botswana emerged victors by a solitary goal.
The last time Botswana met Angola was in 2004 in the same COSAFA cup in Luanda and Angola won the game via a penalty shootout. It was a game in which the Botswana team showed character as they came back from a goal down and forced the game into penalties where they lost 5-3.
Angola also once hammered Botswana 2-1 in Gaborone before making it 4-0 in Luanda during the qualifications for 1996 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) that was held in South Africa.
Angola has an impressive record in the COSAFA Cup. They won the tournament three times, in 1999, 2001 and 2004. They were also the finalists last year when they lost to Zambia.
What compounds the matters for the Zebras is that the Palanca Negras (Black Antelopes), as they are referred to, just returned from the 2006 World cup where they made their maiden appearance. Even though Angola bowed out in the early stages, the team played gallantly and their play was applauded by many soccer pundits.
The technical officer of Botswana Football Association, Losika Keatlholetswe, is of the view that Botswana will cause a major upset by defeating Angola as it did against South Africa last year. He said Botswana played as under dogs because they had never defeated South Africa since their admission into international soccer scene.
“Angola is a very good team that dominates in the Southern Africa region. Remember that it is the only team with South Africa to have qualified for the World Cup and that speaks volumes. But that does not mean that we have to fold our arms and say we have already lost. We have to go out there and fight hard and we may end up coming up with something. You must also keep in mind that we nearly caused havoc in Luanda when they hosted us in 2004. We ended up losing on penalties after a brave fight by our players. This time we will be hosting them and that is also an advantage because we have a huge support base,” he said.
Keatlholetswe also added that the loss to Angola was a big lesson to Botswana because, in the following game against South Africa, the mistakes that were made in Angola were not repeated because Botswana players converted all their penalties.
Keatlholetswe also said that Botswana has improved drastically because they managed to hold reigning African champions, Egypt, to a goalless draw in a recent AFCON game. He said that since the team participated in the last World cup tournament, the local players will even be motivated by playing against them.
Last year, Botswana qualified for the semi-finals after edging out both Madagascar and South Africa. In the semi finals, Botswana was eliminated by Zambia by a solitary goal in Lusaka
Botswana might, however, struggle in the competition because it is not FIFA sanctioned. This might result in several local players who play outside Botswana not making it for the tournament.
Most of those players, such as Joel Mogorosi and Pontsho Moloi, are the vital to the national team.
Group C, in which Botswana is fielded, will play last. The first group, which starts on April 28 and ending the following day, comprises Mozambique, Seychelles, Madagascar and Zimbabwe. The games will be played in Maputo.
Group B games will be played at Somhlolo stadium in Swaziland. The games start on May 26 also ending the following day. And the group includes Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland and Mauritius.