The Zebras face a mammoth task in an attempt to win a berth at their second successive African Nations Cup tournament as they face Mali in a two-legged encounter.
Before hosting their opponents at the UB Stadium in Gaborone on October 13, the Zebras will be away in Bamako, Mali’s capital, in September.
The winner will join 15 other countries for the finals.
Ahead of the crunch matches, Zebras’ captain Mompati ‘Apache’ Thuma, believes that the Zebras can overcome the Eagles. The sides met during the AFCON finals in Gabon earlier this year, Mali narrowly winning the closely-contested affair 2-1.
“This is going to be a different ball game altogether. The mood was okay in the camp after we picked Mali and I have no doubt we’ll be ready for the challenge by then. The most important thing is for us to prepare well before playing Mali. Preparations are key to every success,” said Thuma on Friday morning. Thuma added that playing away in West Africa in the first leg would benefit the Zebras to some extent. “We have a pretty record away from home in recent times, especially in AFCON qualifiers. We only lost to Togo away in the last qualifiers, which means we can go out there and come up with a result,” pointed out the Zebras’ skipper.
Radio Botswana (RB 1) commentator Tiro Lepotokisi welcomed the draw, made on July 5 at Ceasar’s Place, Johannesburg. Lepotokisi shared the same sentiments with Thuma that if the Zebras get tough preparatory games, he has no doubt that the Zebras can proceed to the South African showpiece.
“It’s fine for us as a country because Mali are not a closed book to us having played them in the last tournament. It’s not like they outplayed us when we lost 2-1 to them and it favours us well having to travel to them first,” he said.
The Zebras are scheduled to leave for Nairobi today to face Kenya’s Harambee Stars in a midweek international friendly. At the time of going to press, Botswana Football Association (BFA) was still trying to organize a Four Nations tournament which will be played in Gaborone on July 16-17.
Lesotho and Zimbabwe have already confirmed their participation while BFA are still looking for the third country. Sources within the association indicate that the Zebras are likely to face Angola in a high-profile international friendly game in Gaborone on August 11.