When the draw for both the 2006 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) was conducted, Botswana for the first time found themselves pitted against African giants.
Amongst the teams Botswana found themselves having to battle with was the then defending champions, Tunisia, Morocco, Guinea, Kenya and Malawi. Botswana was seen as underdogs and pundits wrote their obituary from the word go.
Others, however, saw it as an opportunity for Botswana to get soaked into high level of competition because most of the teams they would play against had players in professional leagues.
Tunisia is the one that humiliated Botswana by scoring a total of seven goals in two matches while Botswana only managed two.
Guinea, on the other hand, scored six times while Botswana scored only once. The two draws that followed for 2008 and 2010 saw Botswana having to share the field with other African great teams Egypt and Ivory Coast.
Botswana did well because they managed to share the spoils with them at home although they lost away.
Another draw for 2012 AFCON has once against seen Botswana pitted against a North African team, Tunisia, together with Malawi and Chad. Botswana seem to be not having that much difficulty when playing against North African teams. Even at the Under 23 level, Botswana had its fair share.
The Under 23 that was coached by Major David Bright once beat both Tunisia and Morocco. In 2004 and 2005 when Botswana played against Tunisia, the latter were then the strongest soccer nation in Africa because they were the defending champions. That crop has since faded and Tunisia do not look as convincing as was the case at the just past AFCON where they failed to even win a single match but rather drew all their three opening matches.
Also several of the players in the Tunisian squad are the ones that Botswana beat at Under 23 level.
Even before AFCON started their coach maintained that he is on a re-building process. What can be taken note of is that when the Zebras were giving Egypt a tough time, it was under the tutelage of Colwyn Rowe. The win against Morocco and Tunisia at Under 23 was when the team was under Bright.
The two were seen as being tactically strong and that’s how they managed to give their opponents a run for their money.
This time around, the national team is under Stanley Tshosane and people are asking themselves whether the Zebras will make it to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in two years’ time.
Botswana have played against Malawi and beat them at home and away in 2004 and in 2005.
They beat them 2-0 at home, courtesy of Nelson Viola Gabolwelwe and Diphetogo Selolwane.
In Malawi the Zebras triumphed 3-1 via Tshephiso Molwantwa, Selolwane and Tshepho Motlhabankwe.
Malawi, on the other hand, took part in the recent AFCON in Angola and most of their players were the ones humiliated by Botswana. Chad are a closed chapter to Botswana and they have never made any impact in African football.
The technical office of the Botswana Football Association, Philemon Makhwengwe, told The Telegraph that Botswana stands a good chance of qualifying, provided all concerned stakeholders pull in the same direction.
“If the Zebras prepare hard there is no way we would not qualify. With all the support from people involved, the Zebras can make it and could have made it in the last two qualifiers. Botswana has had strong youth teams of which some of the players are in the national team,” he said.
Makhwengwe said there should be a situation whereby all the teams with players in the national team should learn to sacrifice their positions as is the case in other countries. He said there have been unfortunate circumstances whereby some players would fake injuries and make lame excuses when called up to the national team.
Makgwengwe also added that Botswana managed to do well against some of the North African countries mainly because the concerned coaches were using close marking strategy where almost every player has his own man.
“Most teams that Botswana plays against have professional players and as such they are very strong if you give them space to maneuver and if you keep them closely monitored it would not be easy,” he said.
There will be 11 groups and Botswana are in the last group.
Group winners make it to AFCON together with the three best runners up.