Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Wednesday’s encounter the ultimate test for Zebras

When the campaign for 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) started, no body actually gave the Zebras a chance to match the superpowers they share the group with.

Botswana was ruled out before the first whistle could be blown because Tunisia and Togo were seen as firm favourites.

What made matters worse was the fact that many people in the sports fraternity did not have faith in coach Stanley Tshosane.

People believed that a foreign coach with a reputable background was the ideal candidate.
The Botswana Football Association (BFA), however, stood their ground and hired Tshosane. The Zebras were even given a cold send off when they went to Tunisia for their first match.

Being the power house of African football and having just returned from AFCON, Tunisia, playing at home, were the clear favourites.

Then Botswana caused an upset and came home with maximum points, courtesy of Jerome Ramatlhakwane’s goal.

After the victory, some doubting Thomases still could not believe it as they claimed that Tunisia could have brought a fringe squad and Botswana squad’s victory was just a fluke.

Botswana continued to defy the odds as they kept going on the rampage, beating both Togo and Chad and drawing with Malawi.

The Zebras are now facing the same Tunisia in the second round on Wednesday at the University of Botswana Stadium in a do or die encounter.

Reports from Tunisia are that the Cartridge Eagles are in a panic mood and are doing everything they can to win the match.

Tunisia once wrote a formal letter to the BFA, requesting the match to be postponed to late December. The BFA refused and the match will be played under a scorching heat, something that might work well for the Zebras.

Most Tunisian players are used to either mild or cold temperatures. It will be remembered that when they lost their crucial 2010 World Cup qualifier against Mozambique, they blamed it on hot temperatures.

The Tunisians failed to qualify.

For Botswana, a victory would actually guarantee them a place while for Tunisia it would really be a huge embarrassment because football in the North African country is more like a religion.

Zebras coach Tshosane is cautious ahead of the encounter. He told Sunday Standard that Tunisia is a strong team that needs great respect. “Tunisia is a very strong team but that does not mean we do not want maximum points. Tunisia will be looking for revenge and we are also prepared for that and I told the players what to expect,” he said.

Great news for the team is that almost all the foreign-based players will be available.

The notable absentee is Police XI defender, Ndiapo Letsholathebe, who has been doing a marvellous job throughout the campaign. He had a formidable partnership with Mompati Thuma, Mmusa Ohilwe and Mosimanegape Ramohibidu at the back.

With Mogogi Gabonamong available, the coach should not have many worries.

Tshosane, however, does not want to take any chances with the match. He is using the players he has been consistently using since the beginning of the qualifiers.


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