Saturday, January 16, 2021

Zebras face spate of four games in four weeks

The Zebras’ dismal performances in the recent games, especially the humiliation by Zambia, led many people to call for coach Colywn Rowe’s head.
On the other hand, the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup/Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) are just around the corner and Rowe has since expressed optimism to, at least, make it to Angola where AFCON will be held.

Although the Zebras are looking for their maiden appearance at this soccer showpiece, chances for the team to qualify look gloomy. Putting aside the recent poor performances of the team, the road for Botswana appears rocky and riddled with complexities.

Bearing in mind that four games will be played within a four-week period, it is definitely going to be difficult for a country like Botswana. Botswana takes on Madagascar on May 31st at home and, a week later, they head to Maputo to take on the Black Mambas of Mozambique on June 8. On June 14, the Zebras welcome group favourites, Ivory Coast, and, still, a week later, the Zebras, once again, take on the Elephants away in Abidjan.
The four games are going to exactly show whether Rowe is a coach of credentials or a mediocre one. As is a norm in the game of football, there is obviously going to be suspensions and injuries and all these might backfire on the coach.

Botswana has been losing most games they could have easily won and that could have a psychological impact on the players. Also, to date, Botswana has a pool of players to select from but coach Rowe has not widened his net. When he finally decides to include some of the youngsters, it might be a little too late because they might struggle to adapt to the game.

The Coach has, of late, been criticised for relying on the same players time and again and, for that matter, those players are ageing and have easily tiring legs.

With the Mascom Premier League having just ended this past weekend and with four consecutive competitive games looming, Botswana is headed for a terrible disaster.

Just last week, coach Rowe decried the treatment they received in Zambia. He said the players did not have adequate warm water and even the food they ordered came late. By African standards, it is a minor thing compared to several countries, especially those in West Africa. In Southern Africa, countries like Mozambique and Angola are always the main culprits and, with Mozambique in the picture, the treatment might be terrible.

Since the 1998 Africa Cup of Nations that was held in Burkina Faso, Mozambique has struggled to qualify for AFCON and might, this time around, do whatever they can to qualify and this might include mind games. This then means that Botswana might be subjected to harsh conditions by Mozambique.
The Ivory Coast is also one team that has maltreated many visiting countries. Taking into account the political instability in the country, things might be really tough for Botswana. When Botswana lost 6-0 in Abidjan in 1993, the team then also decried inhumane conditions.

With the exception of winning against Madagascar, Botswana is yet to win an official game against both Mozambique and the Ivory Coast. The best result against the Ivory Coast was a goalless draw in the second leg of 1994 AFCON.

Ivory Coast and Mozambique are also not going to struggle with player selection. Ivory Coast players are spread out almost all over the world while most of Mozambican players are spread all over Portugal and even in neighbouring South Africa.

The only country that Botswana might steal points from is Madagascar. They were suspended by world football controlling body, FIFA, and were only re-admitted last week. That, however, should not be seen as a guarantee for points for Botswana. Madagascar might try to prove critics wrong and, just like Botswana, they are yet to qualify for AFCON.

The last time the two countries met was in the regional COSAFA Cup in 2006; and Botswana won 2-0.

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