National team coach Stanley Tshosane has remained unmoved in the face of criticism about his side’s style of play after Sunday’s goalless draw against Malawi. After the 2012 African Cup of Nations tie at the UB Stadium, some football fans expressed concern with what they described as the boring football on display. “Having qualified to play at AFCON next year, I would have expected us to display better football but we still are not convincing,” said one supporter after Sunday’s game.
“I think something needs to be done before we go to AFCON, otherwise we will be a disappointment.”
The criticism came despite the fact that it is the same style which has enabled the Zebras to earn their first-ever berth at the continental showpiece. Only joined by Ivory Coast on Sunday, the Zebras became the first side to qualify for the games to be played in the West African states of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon in seven months’ time.
Against the Flames, Zebras created few opportunities and when a chance presented itself to open the scoring, the local lads squandered it. Leading scorer, Jerome Ramatlhakwana, was isolated upfront, making his life difficult against a Malawi defence that was uncompromising on the day.
Even the presence of state president Ian Khama in the stands, failed to inspire the Zebras to register a convincing result. ┬á
But one of the positives from the game was the performance of BDF XI midfielder, Patrick Motsepe, who started in the place of the injured Ofentse Nato. He covered most of the pitch, his accurate passing winning many hearts.
The draw ensured that the Zebras will finish the qualifiers as group leaders even if they go on to lose to Togo in the last game to be played away in Lome in September. The Zebras have accumulated 17 points from seven games, with Tunisia second on 10 points, beating Malawi who are third on goal difference. Both sides still have two games before they finish the qualifiers.
In an interview with Telegraph Sport on Monday morning, Tshosane said, “People will always have something to say but I am happy that we have achieved our goal in these qualifiers. Of course we were a bit cautious against Malawi but that does not mean we’re a bad side. My employer (Botswana Football Association) is happy with the job I’m doing and that’s what matters most.”
Against the Flames, it was expected that Tshosane would field some of the fringe players like Sekhana Koko, Ontse Ntesa, Onalethata Tshekiso, Patrick Lenyeletse, Dirang Moloi and Othusitse Pilane but he opted to go with the players who have been regulars since the campaign started.
“You know coaching is a difficult job and if I had played with some of the players who have not been regulars and lost, people would be calling me names. Of course I would have loved to use them (fringe players) but we wanted to get a result from the game,” he said.
Tshosane hinted that against Togo in three months’ time, he might use a new team, more especially that there will be less pressure as they will be playing merely to complete the log.
However, the coach is worried about the team’s lack of a creative midfielder. The continued absence of the multi-talented Dirang Moloi gives Tshosane some considerable selection problems as he believes Moloi is the best player for the position.
Meanwhile, Malawi coach Kinnah Phiri praised the Zebras for the gallant fight, saying they showed why they were the first side to qualify for the AFCON. Phiri, in his time a cracking Malawi forward of the late 1970s and early 1980s, said he was hoping the Flames would join the Zebras in West Africa from Group K. ┬á
Malawi will have their fate in their own hands when they host Tunisia in a crunch game in September. The game has already attracted much attention in football circles after the Carthage Eagles ran riot on Sunday beating Chad 5-0 at home, ensuring they overtook Malawi to go second place in the group. The Flames have been in second spot for most of the campaign.
Both sides know that only maximum points would do them good. Phiri hopes that when they host the Tunisians, his strikers Essau Kanyenda and Russell Mwafulira will be available after missing the Gaborone encounter due to injuries. ┬áOther players absent were midfield talisman Joseph Kamwendo and captain Peter Mponda.