Difficult roads always lead to beautiful destinations. This quote by an unknown author should serve as one of the few inspirations of hope as the Botswana national football team treads the difficult road to Gabon for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
The Zebras, however, would have to keep their gallantry about them if they are to survive the unforgiving road that will be littered with corpses of tens of national teams that fail to qualify for Afcon 2017.
So far the odds seem stacked against Botswana’s best eleven. The national team has only managed a paltry six points from four matches and are perched at position three behind the Stallions of Burkina Faso and the Cranes of Uganda.
The Zebras has two matches separating them from Gabon and the two teams to beat are log leaders, Burkina Faso and Uganda.
The Zebras will in June host their Ugandan counterparts in Francistown and will then proceed to Ouagadougou where they will do battle with the Stallions of Burkina Faso.
Botswana would have to be in their best form to beat Uganda, one of Africa’s rising stars. Uganda has earned its mettle by brushing aside continental giants, Togo during the World Cup qualifiers. The Ugandan side is a well oiled machine which boasts a number of players who are plying their trade in top flight leagues around the world.
The encounter between the Zebras and the Cranes will most likely evoke memories of Afcon 2016 when the Cranes missed the qualification by a whisker in the last match of the campaign. Uganda will be determined to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Uganda played against Burkina Faso where they put up an impressive show. They lost the first leg by a solo goal from a controversial penalty and played to a goalless draw in Kampala to take their tally to seven points.
Zebras will be hoping ride out the home ground advantage against the Cranes, but it will not be an easy gallop. The biggest challenge, however, is expected in their encounter with the Stallions in Burkina Faso.
Everything seems to be conspiring against the Zebras. The Stallions’ seem to have found their mojo and all their top flight players are back with the national team. And the in-form Burkinabe will enjoys the full backing of a friendly crowd.
Former Premier League coach, Stanley Mwaanga is however optimistic that Zebras may make it to 2017 Afcon. He told The Telegraph that the team has a good coordination and combination and is brimming with confidence. “I believe that currently Comoros are the deciding factor for Botswana. Comoros need to get points from both Uganda and Burkina Faso for Botswana to have a realistic chance. I am saying this because it would not be easy for Botswana when they play Burkina Faso away, “he said.