On Friday, Zebras’ coach Stanley Tshosane gave the nation the hope that his side could beat Mali and advance to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals to be played in South Africa in three months time.
The Zebras needed to score four goals without reply to make it to the tournament. The following day, few people who travelled to Lobatse Stadium expected the Zebras to play attacking football and predictably it was the hosts who were on the back foot. The Mali side showed more hunger than the hosts and it came as no surprise when they hammered Zebras 4-1 to send the paltry crowd home with their heads down.
Cheik Diabate, Modibo Maiga, Mahadou Samassa and Mahamane Traore scored the goals for the visitors with substitute Tebogo Sembowa scoring the only goal for the Zebras.
The defeat meant that the hosts succumbed to a 7-1 aggregate loss, paving the way for Mali to be amongst 16 nations in South Africa next year.
The Zebras never came to the party, save for the few attacks in the opening half, which left the local fans sucking their thumbs.
Tshosane’s defensive tactics left the supporters wondering if he was aware of what was at stake. At the start of the second half with the Zebras’ trailing 1-0, Tshosane introduced three players, Patrick Motsepe, Ntesang Simanyana and Sembowa in a bid to get a goal.┬á It meant that the Zebras changed formation to 3-5-2 having sacrificed fullbacks Keabetswe Jenamiso and Edwin Olerile.
The move backfired as Mali stepped up their game. The Zebras were caught at sixes and sevens at the back, leading to three more goals for the West Africans. Even President Ian Khama could not bear watching the Zebras for 90 minutes as he left the stadium midway through the second half.
With the score already 2-0 in favour of Mali, some of the fans started leaving the stadium. On the eastern stands, fans sang anti-Tshosane songs. At the end of 90 minutes, the writing was on the wall, the Zebras need to be revamped.
There were calls for a new foreign coach who would come and instill confidence in the players. Tshosane, who snubbed television interviews before and after the game, took a swipe at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) administration for not supporting him enough prior to the game.
“There are a lot of things which are not right administratively and we need to sort that out,” Tshosane told journalists at a post-match briefing. On the game, he said his side did not follow the instructions hence the defeat. When asked whether the loss has put pressure on him, Tshosane said that like any other Motswana, he would have liked to win the game.
The following sides complete the list of AFCON line-up;
South Africa (hosts), Zambia (defending champions), Angola, Mali, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Niger, Ethiopia, Morocco, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Tunisia. ┬á
The draw for the tournament will be held on October 24.