While most of Batswana are over the moon that the Zebras will finally make their debut at the 2012 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) to be co-hosted by West African countries, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, head coach Stanley Tshosane continues to have sleepless nights over his side’s inability to score goals.
In the current qualifiers, the Zebras have managed to rattle the net only seven times despite being at the top of the table. Just three players have scored the goals, with Jerome Ramatlhakwana scoring five and Joel Mogorosi and Phenyo Mongala accounting for the other two at one apiece.
With Batswana decrying the team’s performance during the successful campaign, Tshosane’s nightmare is to find a strike force able to bury the chances that are created at the continental showpiece.
Ahead of their goalless draw against Malawi at the UB Stadium recently, Tshosane said, “I thought the problem of scoring was a thing of the past but there were signs against Swaziland. I don’t want to blame anyone but it’s something we need to work on.”
The problem haunted the hosts for the entire game against Malawi as the team huffed and puffed.
If the situation continues, the Zebras might find the going tough against its opposition in West Africa, especially if Ramatlhakwana is bottled up.
At such tournaments, it is goals which win games but the current statistics do not favour the Zebras.
In the qualifiers, four of their wins have been by a single goal and they have only managed to score twice when they beat Togo 2-1 in Gaborone. The presence of Botswana Premier League’s top scorer, Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping, has not helped despite him scoring 30 goals for his club, Mochudi Centre Chiefs, in the previous season.
Even Township Rollers’ attacking midfielder, Sekhana ‘Nandos’ Koko, who has been scoring with ease for his club in the past season has failed to come to the party when called to duty.
Another striker who showed some killer instincts in front of goal, Kenanao ‘Flo’ Kgetholetsile of BMC, has not been tried by the national selectors.
Since the Zebras started playing in group qualifiers in 1994, scoring has always been a problem.
Instead, they have conceded fewer goals and with the defense drastically improved, it was expected that the scoring would be better. It was only during the 2006 World Cup/AFCON qualifiers that the Zebras managed to score 10 goals in 10 games, an average of a goal per game.
At the time, the Zebras kicked off the qualifiers with a bang, hammering Lesotho 4-1 in Gaborone during the preliminary stages.
It was a time when Zebras’ attack was led by the terrible twins, Diphetogo ‘Dipsy’ Selolwane and Tshepiso ‘Sox’ Molwantwa.
The duo scored three goals apiece in the 10 goals the Zebras netted during the 2006 campaign.
Behind them, they were ably supported by the multi-talented Masego ‘Abedi’ Ntshingane. It was his creativity which made life easier for the strikers. Tshosane was justified recently when he said the other problem he is having is that of a creative midfielder.
In the current team, there is no player who can make the Zebras click when the chips are down. A fully focused Dirang Moloi would do the job but his absence from the squad has left everyone guessing. Even assistant coach Kenneth Mogae, when addressing the media recently, dodged the question as to why Moloi continues to be absent from the Zebras.
When it was clear that the Zebras had a problem of scoring in the 2010 World Cup/AFCON qualifiers, some people even suggested that Zimbabweans Master Masitara and Terrence Mandaza be naturalized to help ease the problem.
At the time, others thought that it was a crazy thinking the local ‘sons’ could do the job.
So what needs to be done to solve the situation before the Zebras compete at the highest level?
Botswana Football Association (BFA) technical director Tlhagiso Sethibe did not want to comment on how best Zebras can solve the problem saying Tshosane is the best man to field the questions. Instead he said that if it is clear that our national teams have the problem, then his association needs to focus on addressing it more at the youth level.
BDF XI coach Sikalame Keatlholetswe said that there is nothing Tshosane can do at the moment to improve the situation.
He said that all the technical team has to do is to go with the same approach which has seen Botswana becoming the first African country to qualify for the showpiece.
“We qualified for AFCON because Stan (Tshosane) was too tactical and it worked for us. He must have realized long ago that the problem persists hence the approach. Believe you me, there was no way we could have played an open game against Tunisia, Togo and Malawi knowing our strengths and weaknesses. So if we managed to qualify with the approach, there is no need to change; instead we can do some modifications,” said Keatlholetswe.
He even gave an example of Italy saying that despite winning the World Cup in the past, the Italians have never had a strong attacking force. Hopefully with training camps scheduled before the games in January, the technical team will find a solution.