Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Pundits see easy pickings for Zebras in AFCON draw

Local sports pundits and scribes have opined the country has a chance of qualifying for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.

Commenting following a draw of lots which was conducted this past Thursday, they said the group which Botswana has been drawn in is winnable.

The draw put Botswana in Group 1, where they will face Angola, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

“This is just a proper AFCON qualifying group we have been pooled in. It is a winnable group and it will be a disappointment if we fail to qualify,” football scribe Mqondise Dube said.

Speaking in an interview, Dube said if everyone can play his or her role, there is a big chance Botswana will make it to the 2019 AFCON finals.

“If everyone can have his hands on the wheel, I believe we can make it. We cannot afford to have the association, the coach and the players working as three separate entities. They all need to be united and to work together,” he explained.

 Concerning the Zebras’ rivals in the qualifying group, Dube said they do not pose any serious threat.

“When we faced Burkina Faso here during the last qualifiers, we beat them. That shows they are beatable and I believe we can do it again. Angola, on the other hand, has been on a downslide in recent years and there is no reason why we cannot beat them. As for Mauritania, I believe they must be the whipping boys of the group,” Dube said.

He said while Botswana is ranked 113th in the world, the same as Mauritania, this does not reflect that the country has played badly.

“The fact is we have not played an international match in a long while and this has affected our rankings. We need to have more international games to prepare for the qualifiers as well as to better our rankings,” he explained.

“If we are to qualify, resources have to be availed. We cannot have a situation like in the past where we always had to be told that there are no monies to help the team prepare,” he concluded.

For his part, football analyst Monty Gagomokgwa concurred that the group Botswana has been thrown into is easy.

“For me, we have more than 50 percent chance of qualifying in this group. However, this can be attainable only if resources are availed for them to prepare. I hope we do not have a situation similar to in the past where resources were not availed to help the team in its preparations,” Gagomokgwa opined.

Although optimistic of the Zebras’ prospects of qualifying, Gagomokgwa, however, said Botswana should tread carefully as all the teams in the group can cause upsets.

“We have played Burkina Faso before and while we beat them, we also lost to them. I believe that with proper preparations, we can beat them. Angola on the other hand, though not doing well at the moment, is the team we should be wary of. Our history shows that we have not beat them in serious competitions and I believe they will be a dangerous prospect,” he explained.

“As for Mauritania, we cannot underestimate them. They have shown in the recent year that they are no pushovers. Mauritania is the reason why Bafana Bafana failed to qualify for the ongoing AFCON finals and this shows exactly why they cannot be taken lightly,” Gagomokgwa said.

 “We have a young team that is very inexperienced. They need to be afforded some international friendly matches to help them. If you look at the group that qualified for our maiden AFCON finals in 2012, they were very experienced and the core of the team at the time were playing in the professional set-up in South Africa. We do not have much of that in the current team,” he summed up.

The Zebras’ quest for a place at the 2019 AFCON finals will start here in Botswana, when they host Mauritania in the second week of June this year. They will then travel to Angola sometime towards the end of March 2018 before facing Burkina Faso in back to back matches between September 3 and 11, 2018. Thereafter, they will visit Mauritania in their penultimate match in October 2018 before hosting Angola in their last qualifying match in the first week of November.

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