Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Guinea-Bissau mind games frustrate the Zebras

With the winner of the Zebras versus Guinea-Bissau tie is expected to book a place in the group stages, there is little doubt that Guinea-Bissau would do everything to frustrate their visitors.

Much is at stake in this game and the Zebras must be prepared for the unexpected. It is a norm that some of West African countries keep visiting sides longer at the airports before the ferry them to the hotel.

In some cases, the hotel might not be in a good condition and may be located next to a night club.
By late last week, BFA chief executive officer, Keith Masters, was a frustrated man and wondered why the Football Federation of Guinea-Bissau (FFGB) has not communicated with his office as per the CAF rules and regulations.

“I cannot tell you when the Zebras will leave because Guinea-Bissau have not communicated with us. We don’t know whether we’ll play in Bissau or Senegal. How are we supposed to make arrangements? Even when they came here their communication was very poor,” said Masters.

The turn of events does not come as a surprise because FFGB officials left Gaborone fuming, accusing the host nation of ill-treatment. The West Africans put the blame on the BFA since six of their players were denied entry into the country due to visa problems.

But Masters has refuted their claims: “It’s absolute rubbish, they are trying to find excuses for the loss. We did our best to take care of them when they were here like we usually do. The honest truth is that they messed up when they were here.”

Despite the challenges they have experienced in the build-up to the match, Masters remained confident that the Zebras can make it to the next round.

He has pinned his faith on head coach Peter Butler, who took over as coach in February, to lead the Zebras through.

“Peter has been around and has worked in challenging environments. He knows how to handle such situations and I believe he’ll be able to motivate his players. Some of the players have the (African) experience and I also believe they’ll be able to do their best (under the circumstances),” Masters added.

Zebras’ midfielder, Ofentse Nato, said they are not going to let off-the-field issues distract from their mission. He said that all they want is to qualify for the group stages.

“It is going to be a difficult game considering the slim margin we’re taking there. In football, two goals are not safe and we’ll have to be on alert throughout the game. We missed lots of chances in the first leg but it’s all in the name of the game,” said Nato.

In a post-match interview, Zebras’ coach Peter Butler said that Guinea-Bissau showed some signs of brilliance when they were here.

“We’ll come up with a plan for the return leg,” said Butler.

Guinea-Bissau coach, Paul Torres, is confident that his side will overcome the 2-0 deficit and book a place in the group stages.

“This game is like halftime, we’ll have our chance when we play home. Our goal is to go to the group stages. We were disadvantaged by six of our players who denied entry (into Botswana) due to visa problems,” said Torres.

The winner will join favourites Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal in Group G. If the Zebras win, they will take on Tunisia in an away match on September 6.

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