Sunday, April 5, 2020

The not so smooth a road for the Zebras

It might be ululations by many Batswana following the draw for the 2010 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations. Many Batswana might be thinking that with the exception of the Ivory Coast, Botswana is going to have an easy passage to the final round in Group 7. But be warned, both Mozambique and Madagascar pose real danger. In the just ended qualifications for 2008 AFCON, Botswana paid a heavy price by underrating Mauritania.

Mauritania was below Botswana in FIFA rankings and was nowhere to be seen in competitive football. But the Mauritanians shocked Botswana with a 4-0 drubbing in Nouakchott. Just from club level to the national teams Mozambique and Madagascar have given Botswana a run for their money. During the qualifications for 1996 AFCON, Mozambique humiliated Botswana both home and away. It was even worse in Maputo where the score line was 4-0. The hex continued a few years down the line, notably in the Council for Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) where Mozambique beat Botswana twice.

The players who did the job for Mozambique were the likes of Manuel ‘Tico Tico’ Bucuane, Nuro Tulibadine, Rui Ivora and Mathias Chakachaka. Almost all others have retired and it is only Bucuane who is leading the youthful team. He is currently plying his trade with the South African side, Orlando Pirates. Also at club level, it can be borne in mind that Gaborone United were once booted out in the club African competitions by Mozambican side, Ferroviaro de Maputo in 1994. After GU won 1-0 in Gaborone, Ferroviaro won 2-0 in Maputo. Although Botswana defeated Madagascar 2-0 at the 2006 COSAFA Castle Cup, previously Madagascar once humiliated Botswana. During the preliminaries for 2000 Africa Cup of Nations, Botswana lost to Madagascar by an aggregate of 2-1. After winning 1-0 in Gaborone, Diphetogo Selolwane’s goal counted for nothing as the islanders came back strongly in Antananarivo.

Mochudi Centre Chiefs also once came back crying in 1997 after losing to a Malagasy team. Both Mozambique and Madagascar’s football has been on a downward spiral for some time, but both teams have improved tremendously and are on an upward pick and that could be more dangerous to Botswana. Both countries want to prove a point that they still can beat Botswana. Ivory Coast remains the scariest of them all. The mighty western Africa Elephants once tore Botswana to smithereens way back in 1991 when they won 6-0 during the qualifications for the 1992 AFCON. There were only three countries then in the group Botswana featured, and the third country was Niger. Even though Botswana only managed a point from the four games, it was a goalless draw in the return game against Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast encountered what they did not expect as Botswana fired from all cylinders. Although Ivory Coast was strong, lady luck deserted Botswana on the day as Tafic compatriots, Setimele ‘BB’ Sechele and Jomo ‘Nobody’ Mosweu ran amok. Ivory Coast still has a great chance because the state of football in the country is blistering. The Ivorian players have infested major European leagues and are making a huge impact.

The most popular is Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. Other famous faces are the Toure brothers, Kolo and Yaya, who play for both Arsenal and Real Madrid. Others are Aruna Kone and Aruna Dindane. Ivory Coast has also so far made its own history. They, for the first time, qualified for last year’s World Cup and their Under 23 have, for the first time, qualified for next year’s Beijing Olympics. Nevertheless football records are meant to be broken; Botswana can make history by defeating Ivory Coast whether home or away. The national Under 23 team has proved to the nation that big names do not count as they sent shockwaves around the world. They have since beaten the once unbeaten. Imagine a country like Botswana beating Tunisia, Morocco and drawing with Cameroon. This meant that even Ivory Coast can be tamed once proper planning is laid on the ground before it is too late.

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