Another mammoth task awaits the Zebras when they start their Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) campaign next week. Last year, they were not given a chance to progress to the next round but managed after defeating South Africa. This year, the Zebras might again face another African powerhouse, Angola. The question is, can they repeat last year’s feat and qualify for the next stage? Tshepho Bogosing reports.
Botswana’s national team, the Zebras are facing another dilemma in next weekend’s COSAFA tournament. There is a possibility for the team to meet Angola, a team that Botswana is yet to defeat in either friendly or official games. Botswana might play Angola provided they defeat Namibia and Angola slides past Lesotho.
Last year, however, the Zebras defied all the odds and made history by defeating South Africa, their long-time hoodoo team, 6-5 on penalties. The results left South Africans stunned because Botswana, as part-timers was, incomparable to professionals of South Africa.
The South African team consisted of professional players some of whom are based overseas. The last time Botswana played the Palanca Negras (Black Antelopes) of Angola was in 2004 in the same tournament. Despite playing away to Luanda, Botswana put up a brave fight and it was an encounter Botswana nearly stole.
Angola broke the deadlock in the initial stages of the first half through Flavio, their danger man who is based in Egypt. But it did not take long before Botswana levelled matters from Tshepho Motlhabankwe’s free kick. Ernest Amos’s miss in the penalty shootout gave Angola a 5-4 victory. Nevertheless, Botswana might be buoyed by the fact that the national Under 23 team has since broken another barrier by defeating their fellow Angolans for the qualifications of the All Africa Games. Angola, on the other hand, is a country that is renowned for taking the COSAFA tournament seriously compared to other countries. Despite the tournament being not FIFA sanctioned, Angola normally brings their full strength team and rarely has time to try new players.
Before meeting Angola, Botswana will have to sweat it out against Namibia.
Botswana might have defeated the brave Warriors in the past two COSAFA encounters, but the team has improved tremendously as is shown in their campaign for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations. Botswana first defeated Namibia away in 2003, courtesy of Tshephiso Molwantwa’s header. The victory was significant because it was Botswana’s first ever in the tournament. In 2005, Botswana escaped by a whisker after Moemedi Moatlhaping leveled matters in stoppage time and went on to win on penalties. The Namibians have been showing signs of tremendous improvement and might pull a surprise victory provided the former underrate them.
Coach Colwyn Rowe is optimistic for the country to make it to the next round. He said COSAFA is a tournament which Botswana can easily showcase their mettle. He added that yesterday (Saturday)’s game against Zambia would help them for the COSAFA encounter.
“This is the tournament that Botswana should actually prove themselves that they are a force to reckon with in Southern Africa. Even though it would not be easy, we will try all our best to progress to the next round,” he said.
Rowe also said the squad he picked for yesterday’s game against Zambia is just preliminary and there might be changes for the COSAFA tournament.
Since the inauguration of the tournament Botswana has been improving during the past three seasons. Last year, they were eliminated by Zambia through a solo goal at Independence Stadium in Lusaka in the semifinals. Previously, Botswana were just eliminated from the word go.
Botswana also has a record of scoring first in most of the games they lost, only to concede goals in the latter stages of the match.
Since 1997, only four countries have won the tournament. The countries are Angola, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. South Africa only won it once while the other three countries won it three times each. The first country to win it for keeps was Angola in 2004.
Previous COSAFA winners
2002: South Africa