Botswana’s senior national football team, The Zebras will have their work cut out for them when they take on Egypt in the return leg of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Qualifiers this coming Wednesday. The Zebras hopes of making their second appearance at the African Cup of Nations are all but finished after they suffered a 2 ÔÇô 0 defeat at the hands of Egypt this past Friday. The defeat, the third in a row for the Zebras in Afcon qualifiers places the Zebras at the bottom of their group G and leaves them with no real hope of qualifying for next year’s finals which will be held in Morocco.
Against Egypt on Friday night, Peter Butler’s charges were lucky to escape with a 2 ÔÇô 0 defeat as the visitors squandered many chances which they felt to convert. With both sides having come into the game at the back of two defeats each, the game was significant for both sides as it would have kept them in touch with both Senegal and Tunisia who are perched at the top of the Group G table. Signs were ominous from the first half as Kabelo Dambe had to work overtime to keep out the marauding Egyptians. The Platinum Stars goal minder was in fine form in the first half as he produced a string of saves to thwart the Egyptians and keep Botswana in the game.
After a cagey start, Dambe was first called into action on the 21st minute as Amr El-Sulaya let rip from a distance but Dambe easily handled the ball. A few minutes later, the Botswana goal minder rushed of his line to thwart Mohamed Salah after the Chelsea man was set on his way to goal. Egypt nearly took the lead in the 31st minute but El-Sulaya’s header missed by a few inches. Barely two minutes later, Dambe was back in the thick of things as he thwarted Mohamed Salah from close range. The lanky keeper’s heroics were enough to ensure that the Zebras went to recess holding the Egyptians to a goalless draw. Having weathered the storm of Egyptian attack in the first half, Botswana’s coach Peter Butler wasted no time from recess as he brought in Leutlwetse Tshireletso and Thato Ogopotse for Obuile Ncenga and Lemponye Tshireletso respectively.
The move resulted in Butler pushing Segolame Boy to play in the wing while Mogakolodi Ngele was moved to play behind Botswana’s lone striker, Jerome Ramatlhakwana. While the move seemed to breathe life into the Zebras attack, it was however the Egyptians who posed the greater threat and continued to control the proceedings. The Pharaohs took their deserved lead in the 56th minute when Mohamed El-Nenny hit a swerving shot past Dambe. Barely six minutes later, the Egyptians increased their tally to two when Mohamed Salah hit a low shot past Dambe after he was given space to shoot from the edge of the penalty area. Things nearly got worse for Botswana in the 73rd minute when Dambe was beaten by an audacious overhead kick, but his defence was there to clear from the goal line and keep the score respectable.
Despite the Egyptians taking their feet off the pedal for the remaining minutes, Botswana could not muster any serious threat as Egypt held on to keep their qualification hopes alive while dealing a fatal blow to Botswana’s dreams.