The Botswana national Under 23 football team is through to the next stage of the All Africa Games after they were held to a 1 all draw by their Swaziland counterparts at the University of Botswana Stadium on Friday. Having won the first leg encounter by a solitary goal in Swaziland a fortnight ago, many had expected Botswana to breeze through to the next stage against their less fancied opponents.
However, this was not to be as the visiting Swazi team showed intent to turn the tables and cause a major upset.
After a scrappy first ten minutes, Botswana was the first to show some glimpses of good football as they strung some enterprising passes, which left the Swazi’s chasing shadows, soliciting ululations from the local fans. This was, however, short lived as both teams resorted to playing some negative football with none showing any determination to score.
The first clear chance of a goal came Botswana’s way but Motsholetsi Sikele’s header went wide after connecting with a good cross from the left wing.
With the local lads pushing forward, Swaziland launched a quick counter attack from the right wing, which Swaziland captain Maseko Welile posted past Botswana goal minder Kabelo Dambe with a diving header.
Botswana then launched attacks at the Swazis and created goal scoring chances, which they failed to convert.
Sikele was denied twice thereafter by the Swazi goalkeeper, Dlamini Ncamiso, before the ever reliable Lemogang Maswena wasted a glorious chance after being set up by Ontse Ntesa.
The game went into recess with Botswana a goal behind. Whatever coach Daniel ‘Chico’ Nare told his charges at recess seemed to work as Botswana came into the second half the hungrier of the two teams.
The home team pressed from the start and were rewarded as early as the 2nd minute of the second half when Sikele fired home an equaliser for the home team.
Left to move forward by the Swazis, the youngsters utilised the space and fired home a grass cutter that passed under Ncamiso’s body. The goal seemed to instil some belief into the local boys as they moved forward in search of another goal.
Coach Nare will still have a lot of work to do, more especially in defence where Botswana seemed static and unable to track back on time while under counter attacks, something which often let the Swazis at goal.
In one instance, the young lads from Swaziland nearly increased their tally after another quick counter which found Sibandze Dlamini in the box, only for the latter to be denied by Dambe in Botswana’s goalposts. The local lads then piled pressure and created a couple of decent chances but wayward finishing let them down.
The game ended with a draw, meaning the young Zebras are only one team away from qualifying for the All Africa Games. They are expected to face the winner between Zimbabwe and Zambia in the next stage of the qualifiers.