National soccer team, the Zebras, will be playing what might be the game of their lives on Saturday when they host Togo for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier at the University of Botswana Stadium.
The Zebras go into the game perched at the top with seven points from three matches. The game will indeed determine whether Zebras can make it. It has proven in the past qualifications’ that collecting points in the first round helps a lot.
A victory would mean that one leg is already in the 2012 finals.
If other teams in the group draw that would further boost Botswana’s chances.
Togo, on the other hand, get into the match having played only two matches and collected only two points. This has left them with a mammoth task if they really want to qualify. What disadvantages Togo the most is that they will be missing their spiritual and star player, Emmanuel Adebayo, who plays for English Premier league side, Manchester City. He is on self imposed exile and is pondering a return. Togo is also still reeling from the devastation they suffered from the 2010 AFCON.
Upon entering Angola, where the tournament was held, the they came under fire from rebels in the province of Cabinda and lost two support staff members. Togo ended up not playing after their President ordered them to come home.
The Confederation of African Football cared less about the incident and would suspend them for the next two editions of the tournament. It was only after the intervention of FIFA that Togo were reinstated and added into group K.
Nevertheless football is a game of surprises and Togo might be a totally different team and might turn the tables upside down.
Several of their players are based overseas and that might work well for them. On the other hand, Zebras coach Stanley Tshosane has expressed hope to do well since the game will be at home. He said the team has for some time been preparing for Togo.
“We are prepared for Togo and I am hopeful that the boys will show the same mentality they did against other teams we played before. The match is very important for us and we have to win it at all costs,” he said.
Tshosane added that by the beginning of this week they did not have any major injuries but a few knocks that he hoped will heal before the game.
By press time, the only local player who did not report for camp was Gaborone United defender, Mmusa Ohilwe. Tshosane expressed his disappointment at his absence saying his phone was even off and it is difficult to know where he is and what the problem was. Even his recent trip to Greece for trials caught Tshosane by surprise; the coach said he did not know anything.
“Ohilwe is a national team player and if he goes out for trials while the national team is in camp I need to know so that I can see what to do. Hearing it through the media is not good at all,” he said.
The only foreign-based players who are already in the country are goalkeeper Modiri Marumo of Bay United and Phenyo Mongala of Orlando Pirates.
Others were expected to arrive during the course of the week.