After a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Zambia at University of Botswana stadium on Friday, Botswana’s national Under 17 has crashed out of the African youth championship qualifiers. The huge loss means Botswana will tumble out of the qualifiers with an aggregate score line of 6-0 after losing the first leg 1-0 in Zambia two weeks ago. The loss did not come as a surprise for many because Botswana was generally ill-prepared for the encounter.
However, the 5-0 margin was very embarrassing, especially considering that it was incurred on the U-17 home ground, after the young lads managed to hold the Zambians to a 1-0 win in Zambia.
Before the first leg in Zambia, Botswana were only in camp for about three weeks after the final selection and managed to play only two friendly matches with South Africa, which they lost 4-0 and 2-0 respectively. These score lines mean that in all the four matches that they played; the U-17 did not score a single goal but conceded 13 goals. Though they beat Botswana by a huge margin, the Zambian youth team was one of the weakest as they were not coherent and did not even posses that much. They only relied on power play which worked for them as they managed to score a lot of goals.
The Zambian players were physically superior over their Botswana counterparts, who often looked small and frail. Botswana started the game well as they showed their intentions to score early on while making sure that the Zambians don’t score at all costs. But Zambia broke the deadlock 17 minutes into the game after Botswana conceded a penalty by bringing a Zambian player down inside the box. Patson Daka did not make a mistake as he sent Botswana’s goalie, Thuso Manyelela the wrong way. After conceding a goal, Botswana looked a bit demoralized as they would now have to score three goals to proceed to the next round. In the 34th minute Zambia doubled the lead through a goal by Victor Chungu following a scramble in the box. Both teams went for recess with Zambia leading by two goals and a comeback by Botswana looking impossible.
Botswana tried hard to launch attacks in the second half but the Zambians stood firm at the back. The Zambians scored the third goal just seven minutes in the second half through Daka following a breakthrough. The game looked like it would end at 3-0, but the Zambians had more surprises for Botswana. Daka and Garry Mwelwa scored two quick goals during injury time to deliver an embarrassing home ground defeat for Botswana. Botswana coach, China Matlhaku was a disappointed man after the game. He said they tried to attack but unfortunately opened up at the back and allowed Zambia to score an avalanche of goals. Matlhaku lamented lack of adequate time to prepare for the games.
“Before the Zambian game we never had enough time to prepare. This Zambian side has been together for some time and they even went to training camps in European and Asian countries,” he said.
Botswana’s loss comes in the wake of a historic achievement by their predecessors, who made it all the way to the African champions that were held in Morocco last year. The current team was expected to emulate them but it was not to be.