Most Zebras supporters are of the opinion that the Botswana senior national football team, the Zebras, should be climbing up the ladder of the FIFA rankings under new tactician Colwyn Rowe. This, they say, is because when he took over from Veselin Jelusic, the team was on the rise. Perhaps what these pessimists overlook is the fact that Rowe is his own man with a different approach to the game.
Football analyists have always said that it takes time for a new coach to achieve good results and what is needed is for support to come from all walks of life.
Casey Montshiwa of the Zebras supporters club came out in protection of Rowe.
“Rowe must be given ample chance just as we did to Vasco. People are calling for his head because he lost those five games. They forget that we were beaten by quality opposition. Even Vasco could have lost those games. Vasco actually started notching some few victories against weaker countries of southern Africa,” said Montshiwa.
Records will certainly show that at this stage of the African football calendar, Veselin was also losing games, notably the 4-0 drubbing the Zebras received at the hands of Guinea, the 5-0 whitewashing by Tunisia and, of course, those narrow losses against the two countries in Gaborone.
Many are of the opinion that to say Veselin is a better coach is implausible because Rowe has not had the chance to come face to face with Southern African minnows like Malawi, Namibia and others.
When he did tackle Lesotho last week, Rowe did triumph. Moatlhaping’s opportunist header sealed the victory for the Zebras.
Montshiwa went on to say that he sees Rowe as a better coach because he is attack minded.
“We are in a transition from a boring-boring Zebras to an entertaining side. Against Lesotho, you could see that the boys were not restricted to express themselves. When Veselin notched up those victories against the likes of Malawi last year, the team was not convincing,” he said.
Montshiwa opined that as a matter of fact, Veselin has had more losses than victories as coach of the Zebras. He said that people are being harsh on Rowe because the Briton has had no chance to watch more League games, as opposed to Veselin who even coached local teams.
Tshepo Seane of Bobonong Zebras supporters’ club also said Rowe is heading in the right direction.
“These days our team can play the ball a bit in the midfield. Under Veselin, the defenders used to boot the balls upfield. For instance, against South Africa in the Cosafa Castle Cup, they watched the South Africans doing all the playing for 120 minutes waiting for those penalties. We must play the ball as we are seeing with the Rowe team. The new coach is bringing in more ball players so that the team plays. It is a pity that Rowe had to start with difficult games like these when he is trying out good combinations,” said Seane.
Against Lesotho, the Zebras seemed fired up against a good team because in all fairness, the Zebras’s opponents were more authoritative in their play, controlling the game for most periods with the Zebras chasing shadows.
The Zebras only got their goal when one of the Lesotho players was out injured. However, Rowe appears to be steadily knitting the right combinations with time.
Township Rollers’ Boitumelo Mafoko seems to have made that holding role position his own. Ndiapo Letsholathebe and Ernest Amos seem, to Rowe, to be the ideal central defence partnership. The only setback with this combination is that Amos almost always struggles against pacey forwards. Against Lesotho, he had his hands full against the dreadlocked Lebajoa Mphongoa. How about a Mompati Thuma- Lesholathebe partnership? Moatlhaping seems to have brought another dimension to the team, something that conspicuously lacked against Zambia and Cameroon.
Joel Mogorosi remains the favourite in that left wing but he should learn to vary his runs to confuse the opposition. A big plus for him is that he is always confident in what he is doing. Wait a minute! Had Rowe forgotten that Dirang Moloi is a midfielder who is effective in a more central role or right-inside midfield position than as a winger. The young lad is simply the best passer of the ball in the current Zebras team as evidenced by his carving passes when he came on against Lesotho.
The lone striker strategy
Against the Cameroon Under-23 team, Rowe employed a lone striker in debutant Onalethata Tshekiso. The stategy was criticised by some analyst who said in Botswana, the system cannot work because most of our players are found wanting when it comes to the basics of the game.
Said Olebeng Mabotsa of Old Naledi; “The midfielders do not normally come up quickly to support the striker. Scoring goals using such a system will be a tough hurdle. Against Cameroon, Tshekiso was lost because he was always surrounded by three to four defenders.”
Against Lesotho, Rowe employed the same strategy, deploying Tshepiso Molwantwa alone upfront. Again, there was nothing he could do as the defenders outnumbered him.
Added Mabotsa; “The coach should use the traditional 4-4-2 formation. This system would work because we have pacey wingers such as Mogorosi. He must also consider calling Phenyo Mongala so that he operates on the left and Mogorosi on the right. Motlhabankwe should move to a more central midfield role as he lacks pace for a winger.”