After the draw for the 2006 World Cup and the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Botswana found itself in the middle of African giants, Tunisia, Morocco and Guinea. Many people did not expect Botswana to perform miracles but to at least get exposure.
Many people also wanted to at least have a glimpse of African stars at the time. Tunisia, who would then win AFCON in 1994, became famous across the globe. Players like Francellico Dos Santos, Jairi, Trabelsi Clayton and Bouazizi were instant heroes. The players ended up making it to Botswana and the National Stadium was full to the brim. Against Morocco, many Batswana also had a chance to see the likes of Yossouf Hadji and, against Guinea, it was Glascow Rangers’ gigantic defender, Dian Bobo Balde.
For the 2008 AFCON, Botswana was put to the deep end against the other African champions, Egypt. Botswana, playing to a goalless draw and losing by a solitary goal away, hosted stars such as Hossam Mido and goalkeeper Al-Hadary, who graced the National Stadium.
For the 2010 World Cup/AFCON, Botswana has been given a more famous African team, Ivory Coast, along with Mozambique and Madagascar in group 7.
Now, come June 14, which is next weekend on Saturday at the National Stadium, the Ivorians will be slugging it out with the Zebras. It will be a game many people are anxiously waiting for.
The Elephants might not have won a major tournament for close to two decades but they are the most popular team in the world. This is mainly due to the hordes of stars making up the team. Most Ivorian players are not only playing for popular teams in the major leagues around the World but are always fighting for honours.
In the English Premier League, Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou make the nucleus of Chelsea while Emmanuel Eboue and Kolo Toure are the backbone of Arsenal.
Also, Kolo Toure’s young brother, Yaya, is the engine of Spanish giants, Barcelona.
The Ivorian senior team will be gracing Botswana after almost 16 years and, at that time, their players were not as popular as they are now.
The most recent time an Ivorian team played in Botswana was the Under 17 in 1997 for African Championships. They beat the then Diamond Zebras 7-0.
Ivory Coast is the obvious favourites but Botswana has since proved not to be push-overs against so-called bigger countries.
In 1993, when Botswana played the Ivorians, the locals forced a goalless draw.
Also in 1990, after Cameroon were fresh from making history for being the first African country to reach the quarter finals of the World Cup in Italy, Botswana once again forced a goalless draw during the Independence celebrations.
In 2006, the Egyptians were also shocked to find that Botswana were not pushovers. In the past games, star players have also not found it easy against the Botswana defence that rarely gives them space to breath. Egyptian danger man, Mido, and Moroccan Hadji can attest to that.
The danger about Ivory Coast is that Drogba is a versatile striker who is not easy to tame. After missing the first two games against Mozambique and Madagascar, he is expected to lead his country in Gaborone. Dubbed King Drogba, he is physically strong, quick, has aerial strength and an electrifying pace. His ability to easily spot blind spots should also be a major concern to the Zebras defence.
Ernest Amos can be assigned to tame him, but his lack of pace should be a headache to the technical bench.
On his part, Kalou stretches the defence on the left side to create space for his deadly strikers. Dirang Moloi might not be really fit for the Ivory Coast game but he will be battling it out with Yaya in the middle of the park. They are both ball careers with excellent passes. On the other hand, the most determining game for Botswana is today against the Black Mambas of Mozambique. The game looks set to determine Botswana’s performance against the Ivorians this coming weekend. Mozambique is in dire need of points after losing by a solitary goal to Ivory Coast last weekend.