Monday, August 8, 2022

Can the Zebras break Bafana Bafana hoodoo?

The Zebras’ date against pompous neighbours South Africa in the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier at UB Stadium in Gaborone on Saturday has created a lot of interest within the football circles.

While the Zebras kicked off their qualifying campaign against the Central African Republic (CAR) away in Bangui yesterday, it is the game against Bafana Bafana which has set the whole country talking.

When tickets for the game started selling on Friday morning, they were selling like hot-sweet fat cakes as everyone wants to be part of the historic clash. This is the first time both sides meet in a CAF or FIFA sanctioned competition since South Africa were re-admitted to international football 20 years ago.

Due to the Zebras’ poor showing in the past, South Africa has always turned down proposals for friendly games. The only time the Zebras hosted Bafana Bafana in a friendly game was in January 1993 in a game which the southern neighbours won 2-0 through John ‘Shoes’ Moshoeu and Gardner Seale’s goals.

It then took six years before the sides clashed in a Cosafa Castle Cup game in Gaborone where South Africa won 2-1. The rain-soaked game was played before an electrifying atmosphere at the National Stadium.

Since 1993, the sides have met six times with Bafana Bafana winning five of those games. The only time the Zebras beat the South Africans was in May 2006 through post-match penalties after a goalless draw. Interestingly, Bafana Bafana were under the mentorship of the current coach Pitso Mosimane.

In the six meetings against Bafana, the home side has only managed a single goal conceding seven. The recent rise of the Zebras has made everyone believe that the home side has what it takes to beat their more ‘noisy’ neighbours.

After qualifying for the maiden appearance at the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in January, the Zebras have attracted a lot of interest in the continent. In the past three years, Bafana Bafana’s performance has declined, which has seen them missing on the 2010 and 2012 AFCON tournaments in Angola and Gabon respectively.

When the Zebras arrive from CAR this week, they are expected to immediately get down to business to prepare for what is seen as the biggest clash for most of the players in the camp. The Zebras have not lost a competitive game at UB Stadium in two years something which is likely to boost the morale of the players.

Tunisia, Togo, Malawi, Chad, Kenya, New Zealand are some of the sides which came with big reputations only to leave the university premises empty-handed. Former Zebras’ defender Seabo ‘Seabee’ Gabanakgosi said that it is important for the local lads to win the upcoming game.

“It’s going to be difficult to go to their own backyard and beat them. So we need to do our job here and compete with them. We should not let them come here and intimidate us like they have done in the past,” said Gabanakgosi, who faced Bafana Bafana in the Cosafa Castle Cup in 2002 before being substituted in the first half through a knee injury.

“We have mastered defending but our main problem still remains transition. If we can know what to do when we’re in possession, I have no doubt that we can beat South Africa. I think we can beat them if we can have confidence in ourselves and not give them unnecessary respect,” said former Township Rollers skipper Aaron ‘Route 4′ Radira, who has since turned television presenter.

Radira added that the game against Bafana Bafana is a motivation to the players who would want to secure new homes in the upcoming campaign. Radio Botswana (RB 1) commentator Tiroyaone Lepotokisi pointed out that the Zebras’ players need to have the right attitude on the day to beat their superior opponents. He has no doubt that South Africa have some of the best players in the region but cautioned about the idea of giving them too much respect.

“Our main downfall in the past games against them is that we gave them too much respect. We need to play our game on the day, having done that, I have no doubt we can beat them,” said Lepotokisi.

The Zebras’ previous meeting with South Africa

10 January 1993, National Stadium, Gaborone:
Friendly Game: Zebras 0 SA 2 (John Moshoeu, Rudolph Seale)

20 February 1999, National Stadium, Gaborone
Cosafa Cup: Zebras 1 (Dipsy Selolwane) SA 2 (Pollen Ndlanya, Maimane Phiri)

30 March 2002, National Stadium, Gaborone
Cosafa Cup: Zebras 0 SA 0- Bafana Bafana won 5-4 on penalties

21 May 2006, National Stadium, Gaborone
Cosafa Cup: Zebras 0 SA 0- The Zebras won 6-5 on penalties

14 April 2007, Super Stadium, Pretoria
Cosafa Cup: SA 1 (Teko Modise) Zebras 0

16 January 2008, King Zwelethini Stadium, Durban
Friendly Game: SA 2 (Bryce Moon, Sibusiso Zuma) Zebras 1 (Moemedi Moatlhaping)

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