The Botswana’s national team, the Zebras, have once again failed to make it to the knockout stages of the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) Castle Cup.
This comes after The Zebras were pipped to top of the group by Lesotho by a goal advantage. Botswana could not go through despite the fact that they did not lose a single match from the three matches they played and even finished on a high note, beating favourites Kenya 2-1 in their last match.
The Zebras drew both their matches against Swaziland (0-0) and Lesotho (3-3). It was the match against Lesotho that Botswana will regret for a long time.
It was a match Botswana could have easily won but complacency outdid them. Lesotho, on the other hand, could not be taken for granted because it is one of the best teams they have assembled in years and it took them sometime to build the strong team they currently have.
They once disbanded their national team for a long time after a string of poor results and concentrated on the youth teams. They ended up producing a very strong team that ended up qualifying for the Under 20 African Youth Championships and beat the likes of South Africa.
Most of the players from that team play for the current senior team. The current team drew with Zambia in the last World Cup qualifying matches.
Botswana took the lead twice only to surrender it latter. Botswana’s elimination from this year’s tournament means that Botswana is yet to win the tournament since its inception in 1997. Botswana has only been to the semi-finals in 2007 only to be knocked out by Zambia through a solitary goal.
Botswana coach, Stanley Tshosane, made it clear before the team travelled to Zambia that he would be using the matches as preparation for the upcoming and important match against South Africa in September.
The three matches Zebras played saw the resurrection of reliant striker, Jerome Ramathakwana, who scored Botswana’s four of the five goals at the tournament. He scored a hat-trick against Lesotho and one against Kenya.
In the past matches before COSAFA he was a shadow of himself and did not show that killer instinct that helped Botswana to qualify for their maiden Africa Cup of Nations appearance in 2012.
Even though coach Stanley Tshosane does not easily substitute, the little changes he made show that there are more players with potential in the national team. One such player is Topo Piet who laid a clinical pass with his first touch to Ramathakwane to finish it off against Kenya.
Piet has been called to the national team on several occasions but could not easily break into the team. Even though he only played for about two minutes against Kenya it was enough to give him confidence having started ahead of seasoned players. Piet has been in scintillating form for his club, Nico United, leading to his nomination for many awards at the past Premier League awards ceremonies.