Monday, May 17, 2021

Zebras facing up to a rocky road ahead

Botswana’s senior national team, the Zebras face a mammoth task of qualifying for the 2017 Afcon that will be held in Gabon. The Zebras lost by two goals without reply to Uganda on Saturday and this means Botswana needs more than divine intervention to make it to the tournament.

The loss to Uganda has put the Zebras under immense pressure because they have to convincingly win the remaining matches against the group favourites, Burkina Faso and the tiny island of Comoros. Already, Burkina Faso has defeated Comoros 2-0 making them neck and neck with Uganda. It would really be difficult for Botswana to defeat Burkina Faso, at home or away, considering the caliber of players the team has.

Most of the Burkina Faso players are based in major leagues across the world while Uganda has some good players across several leagues internationally. On the other hand, apart from the few Botswana players in the South African Premier League, the rest of them are home based and are internationally inexperienced.

Since Botswana started on the wrong footing, it is highly unlikely that Botswana would have an easy qualification campaign. When Botswana made history in 2012, by qualifying for their first ever tournament, the team started well despite their group having African giants. Botswana started off the campaign winning by a solitary goal away in Tunisia. Furthermore, they did not lose any single match which resulted in them qualifying for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Coach, Peter Butler, is the one who is under severe pressure and already most Batswana are calling for his head saying he has failed to take the country where it is supposed to go.

Since the time Butler joined the Zebras, he has always preached that he is building a team for the future. What is even surprising Batswana is the fact that despite the amount of time he has been in charge of the team, he is still struggling to get the team together. The current qualification is the second one at his disposal, but he does not have a consistent first team. He is always chopping and changing the team and most of the players that he uses have not been really in the thick of things as far as international football is concerned. In the qualification for the Afcon 2015, Butler’s Zebras only managed a point and a goal. Supporters and analysts started pressing warning bells as a way of disapproval with the way he was handling the team. Sadly, if Botswana is to qualify for 2017 Afcon, they do not have to lose a single match of the five remaining matches, which is a difficult task.

On the other hand, Botswana have to redeem itself this coming weekend when they play Lesotho in an Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifications against Lesotho in Maseru on Sunday. Botswana will be meeting a team that also lost their Afcon qualification match and it will come with guns blazing. Lesotho lost 1-2 away to Ethiopia. Botswana has never really had problems against the Crocodiles of Lesotho but it remains to be seen how they will perform over the weekend.

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