As the national team, Zebras, leave for Chad on Tuesday for the crucial 2012 African Cup of Nations Cup (AFCON) qualifier, coach Stanley Tshosane has pleaded with Batswana to put his side in their prayers as they seek to secure their first-ever appearance at the continental showpiece.
Never before have the Zebras come this close to qualifying and Tshosane believes that country-wide prayers would do his team much good.
The Zebras lead Group K standings with 13 points from five games and a win in Central Africa can see the current squad on the brink of writing their names in history books as the first Zebra’s team to quality for the African Nations Cup.
Tshosane, a staunch member of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), believes that with the help of the Almighty, Botswana can secure a place at the AFCON, which will be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon early next year.
Failing to get a positive result in N’djamena would mean that the next two qualifiers against Malawi (home in June) and Togo (away in September) would be more crucial.
Malawi, and group favourites Tunisia, remain the major threats to the Zebras’ ambitions of coming tops in the group.
Tunisia, second in the group with seven points from five games, can finish the qualifiers with 16 points if they win all their remaining matches.
Third-placed Malawi has six points from four games, and winning their remaining four matches would see them finishing the campaign with 18 points.
While many people believe that winning in Chad will secure the team a place at AFCON, the mathematics show that this is not true.
The Zebras would still need a point against Malawi to ensure their place at the continental showpiece is safe.
Aware of that, Tshoshane said, “We are still far from qualifying and Batswana should understand that they play a big role in this campaign. They should accept whatever results we come back with from Chad. All we need at the present moment is their prayers to make our road smooth.”
The Zebras are likely to face intimidating conditions in Chad, considering that when the Zebras narrowly beat them 1-0 in Gaborone last year, the Central Africans were not pleased.
Tshosane is conscious of the challenges that lie in wait against Chad but he said they have tried to rope in psychologists to try to help the team.
“It’s not going to be an easy game since we’ll be playing away from home. I believe that we’ve done everything for the upcoming game and I’m satisfied with the preparations. It is important that we should not put ourselves under pressure because in the end we may not achieve the goals we set when we started the campaign,” he said.
The coach further said that the recent friendly games against Sweden, Mozambique and Namibia have helped his technical team to address some of the issues which were of concern to them.
He said that they needed to work on combinations and they are happy with what they have achieved. Though some people were critical of the team’s performance against Namibia on Wednesday night in Maun, Tshosane is not worried.
Vasco Da Gama striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana, who looked out of sorts against Namibia, is once again expected to lead the attack. He is currently the top scorer in the AFCON qualifiers.
Meanwhile, the Botswana Football Association (BFA) has announced that from Chad, the Zebras will proceed to Morocco for an international friendly game on March 31. South African-based players are not expected to feature in the Morocco game and Tshosane has used the opportunity to draft the Under-23 players into the team.
Galabgwe Moyana (Centre Chiefs), Gofaone Molapi (Miscellaneous), Odirile Kgaodi, Lemogang Maswena (both Notwane), Bakang Moeng (Flamengo Santos), Gaopatwe Seosenyeng and Kabelo Dambe (both Township Rollers) are the youngsters who will be joining the senior team in Morocco.
“We’re expecting the Under-23 players to join us on Saturday immediately after their Olympic Games qualifier against Egypt. We’ve been having some of these youngsters in our training camps, so this is a perfect opportunity for them to show what they can do at this level. We want to have continuity hence it’s critical to introduce them in some of these friendly games,” said Tshosane.
Full list of the team to face Chad: Modiri Marumo (Bay United, SA), Noah Maposa (Centre Chiefs), Mompati Thuma (BDF XI), Mosimanegape Ramohibidu (BMC), Edwin Olerile (Township Rollers), Mogogi Gabonamong (Supersport United, SA), Ndiyapo Letsholathebe (Police XI), Tshepo Motlhabankwe (Centre Chiefs), Boitumelo Mafoko (Cape Town Santos, SA), Musa Ohilwe, Ofentse Nato (both Gaborone United), Phenyo Mongala (Orlando Pirates, SA), Joel Mogorosi, Othusitse Pilane, Moemedi Moatlhaping (all Centre Chiefs), Ramatlhakwana , Dirang Moloi (both Vasco Da Gama, SA), Diphetogo Selolwane (Supersport United, SA), Lemponye Tshireletso (BDF XI) and Onalethata Tshekiso (Township Rollers).