When national Under 23 football team coach Letang Kgengwenyane and his charges left for their return leg of the Afcon U23 qualifiers, they would have been under no illusion as to how hard a task was lying ahead.
The team had suffered a devastating 1 ÔÇô 2 defeat against Malawi on Saturday afternoon in a first leg played at the Lobatse Sports Complex and were now faced with the unenviable task of going to Malawi to overturn the deficit.
Luckily for Kgengwenyane, he goes to Malawi knowing what they need to do to turn a side made of very good players into a cohesive unit. There is a team and then there are individuals, and the Botswana football national under 23 team that played Saturday resembled the latter.
Looking at the team players individually, you would be tempted to believe this is the best U23 team assembled in years.
Thatayaone Ditlhokwe, Mothusi Cooper and Kago Monyake are regulars at Township Rollers. The same applies for Sharps Shooting Stars’ Tshepo Malgas. The latter is in fact currently one of the most inform forwards in the Botswana Premier League.
Throw in the likes of Police XI’s Mpho Kgomo, Thato Kebue, just to mention but a few, and you wouldn’t be out of place if you said this is one of the best assembled national under 23 sides in Botswana.
However, on Saturday afternoon, this group of talented individuals resembled a hastily assembled team of tourists as they suffered a 1 ÔÇô 2 home defeat at the hands of Malawi.
From the moment the whistle blew, Malawi were quick off the mark and looked like a home team, taking control and dictating the terms.
As coach Letang Kgengwenyane summed up in his post match interview, “The problem is how we started in the first half. We threw away the first half and that team overpowered us in the midfield due to their numerical advantage there. We had numerical inferiority in the midfield.”
Despite such a lacklustre performance, at least the likes of Kgomo and Cooper, who were Botswana’s best players on the day, produced some flashes of individual brilliance.
It was no surprise therefore that after going to recess goalless, it was Cooper who was involved in the creation of the game’s opening goal.
The diminutive midfielder, who was displaying his range of passing skills in the park, deduced a foul from a Malawian opponent.
From the resultant set piece, Brian Mankanku, who had come in a substitute in the second half, nicely floated a ball into the head of Ditlhokwe, whose header gave Botswana a lead.
Thereafter, Malgas, who is normally clinical in front of goal, failed to give Botswana a two goal advantage as he missed one of the few gilt edged chances the local lads got.
Then it all went pear shaped for Botswana with just seven minutes before the final whistle as Hassan Kajote got Malawi an equaliser. Three minutes later, Malawi’s comeback was complete as Gregory Nachipo netted a winning goal.