Despite his team’s two consecutive losses to football powerhouses Nigeria and Tanzania, Young Zebras’ head coach Ricardo Marape remains confident that his boys will regain their bearings and put up a stronger performance in their remaining fixtures at the ongoing 2nd African Youth Games.
The games kicked off in a colorful event in Gaborone on Thursday evening, but it was not so rosy for the Young Zebras, who disappointed the home crowd by losing their first two games.
Going forward, the Young Zebras will have to come up with something special if they want to avoid finishing the tournament empty-handed. The national under-15 soccer team received a baptism of fire from Nigeria who walloped them 2-0 at UB Stadium on Thursday evening, before losing by the same margin to Tanzania on Friday at the SSKB stadium. The hosts struggled to stamp their authority in both games which left their supporters wondering if they had enough time to prepare for the games as a team. The Young Zebras could hardly put together five passes in the two games and their finishing was awful. At the back, the young defenders committed suicidal errors and they were lucky not to have conceded more than four goals in the two games.
After the game against Tanzania on Friday afternoon, Marape blamed his team’s loss on defensive blunders.
“We committed the same defensive blunders just like in the game against Nigeria yesterday and we were punished. It is unfortunate that our defense, which has been our stronghold, let us down in such crucial games,” he said.
He added that they will need to go back to the drawing board to prepare for their next game against South Africa at the national stadium today on Sunday at 6pm. Marape also admitted that their finishing was way below par and promised that they will use their free Saturday to have a talk with the boys.
“We will talk to the boys and see how they respond. We are at a disadvantage because we are playing against opponents who are attached to academies while our players have nowhere to play,” said Marape.
He also pointed out that the team did not spend time together practicing as a team prior to the tournament, which also hampered their preparations.
“I know that our supporters expect a win, but these are small boys who are still learning the ropes. With proper nurturing they will give us the desired results. But we’re not going to lose hope,” he said.
For his part, Young Zebras’ manager Fobby Radipotsane appealed to Batswana not to lose hope as the team is still learning. He expressed confidence that the Young Zebras will put up a better show against South Africa this evening.
“The future looks bright. This is a chance for Batswana to see these boys at an early age. Their support is very important as it will give them motivation in the remaining games,” said Radipotsane.