Botswana national team side, the Zebras, failed to deliver to the nation’s expectations when they were held to a goalless draw by lowly rated South African side.
The Zebras were thought to be on a roll, especially after receiving accolades for trouncing the Black Mambas of Mozambique in a friendly encounter played two weeks ago in Mozambique.
The Zebras-Bafana Bafana encounter was the first leg of a two legged tie between the two in the qualifying games for the second edition of the African Nations Championship, of which the finals will be staged in Sudan in 2011. The Zebras gave a promising and thrilling performance from kickoff, commanding ball possession for the first 20 minutes of the first half.
BMC’s Mmusa Ohilwe had an opportunity to secure an early lead for the Zebras, but he misused his chance. The Zebras continued to keep their supporters and local dignitaries on their toes with a sterling performance, but the South Africans managed to absorb the pressure and launch counter attacks.
Despite his lack of game time at Kaizer Chiefs, Michael Nkambule gave the local lads a run for their money with his splendid touches and defense splitting passes. The Zebras lacked the link in midfield, as Ofentse Nato and Patrick Motsepe failed to gel.
The lack of a creative playmaker made it difficult for balls to reach the forwards, and they were unable to challenge for goal as they seldom got clear cut chances.
This gave Bafana Bafana an advantage, and they piled pressure on the Zebras. Botswana’s midfield played a deep and defensive game.
South Africa’s┬áThabo Moleko gave the first try for his camp on the 15th minute but his effort was thwarted by the Zebras defense. Two minutes later Botswana’s Mokgati Mokgathi tried a shot for goal, but he hit the side of the net.
The Youth Brigade, Tsotso Ngele, commanded some confidence and crafted some brilliant touches, despite receiving hard tackles from the Bafana Bafana defense. He had a one on one moment with South Africa’s goal minder, Siya Mngoma, but his efforts were prematurely thwarted by another hard tackle that sent him down for a while.
The Zebras seemed to regain their confidence early into the second half, but Bafana Bafana overcame them and took control of the game.
The Zebras midfield did not perform up to scratch. South Africa’s Oupa Mangisa crafted some refined offensive moves and was a thorn on the side of the Zebras defense.
Three minutes into the second half Bafana Bafana came forward in search of a goal. The collaboration between Bongani Thwala and Mangisa nearly paid off, but Botswana’s goalkeeper Kabelo Dambe saved the day. Dambe was also a marvel to watch because he blocked several dangerous shots.
Dirang Moloi was introduced in place of Nato, but this did not really bear fruit because the time had already elapsed. Many Zebras supporters were not happy with the teams’ performance, especially since they were not playing against the first Bafana Bafana team.