Thursday, July 7, 2022

Zebras primed to repeat Tunis historic win

It was four years ago when Botswana’s senior national team Zebras made history that would not easily diminish from memories of many Batswana.

Botswana’s senior national team, Zebras beat former African champions, Tunisia at their own backyard by a solitary goal, something that was unprecedented in football circle.

Many could still not believe and said it was just a fluke but Zebras would repeat that historic win at home with a solitary goal to further shock the African continent.

Under the tutelage of Stanley Tshosane, the Zebras would go on to make history as they galloped to their maiden appearance at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals.

As the Zebras prepare to lock horns with the Carthage Eagles once again on Sunday away in Tunis, Batswana will be crossing their fingers for the Zebras to repeat their heroics of four years ago.

While some of the players who were part of the team’s setup quit the national team after AFCON, there has not been much change in the team as far as players are concerned as several of them are still involved in the national team setup.

The biggest change is in the technical department because the team is now under Briton, James Peter Butler assisted by former national team player, Keitumetse ‘Pio’ Paul.

Since taking over this year, Butler has not fared that badly, having already won two preliminary matches to see the Zebras into the group stages. He helped Zebras defeat both Burundi and Guinea Bissau.

When he took over the reins of the team, Butler wanted to make wholesale changes to the team but had to back-track because it nearly backfired.

He called mainly inexperienced players who could not cope with the demands of the international football.

The match between the Zebras and Tunisia will be the fifth meeting for the two sides since 2004 and it remains to be seen who wins it this time around.

Both teams won two matches apiece at both home and away. Fresh from being crowned African champions in 2004, Tunisia humiliated Zebras 4-1 at home during the qualifications for 2006 World Cup that was held in Germany.

Tunisia would repeat the same feat the following year in Gaborone by winning 3-1. Zebras’ goals were scored by Diphetogo Selolwane and Mogogi Gabonamong.

In 2010 Zebras registered their name in the international map by doing the unexpected and beat Tunisia 1-0 in Tunis. Since the World Cup was in full swing in South Africa, many people including the media did not pay much attention to the tie.

Zebras’ goal was scored by Jerome Ramatlhakwane after a beautiful run from the right flank by Joel Mogorosi.

A few months later Ramatlhakwane made sure that the Zebras beat the Tunisians by another solitary goal.

Against the Tunisians’ Zebras were mainly playing a defensive approach and caught the Tunisians on counter attacks. The North Africans are renowned for playing technical game with no or less contact and effectively using their wings. Zebras’ style of play frustrated them the most as they could not easily apply themselves and hence losing.

With new coach in place who has since promised a more attacking football it remains to be seen how Butler will deal with harsh conditions and hostile supporters of the North African side.

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