Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Zebras, Swaziland renew rivalry

The Zebras kick start their Cosafa Castle Cup programme this afternoon when they take on Swaziland at the 15,500 seater Arthur Davies Stadium in Kitwe, Zambia. It is the two countries’ first meeting in three years and lots of attention will be on both sides to see how they will perform.

On paper, the Zebras are clear favourites to win the game but football has proven to be a cruel game. In their last meeting at the Cosafa Cup, which was held in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on October 20 2009, the Zebras beat Swaziland 1-0 courtesy of Malepa Bolelang in the group stages. It was a game which the Zebras could have won by a number of goals but poor finishing let them down.

Since then the Zebras have improved a lot and even earned a place at the 2012 African Nations Cup while Swaziland have continued to falter.

Zebras’ assistant coach Kenneth Mogae said that they have done enough to plan for the tournament. He said they have set themselves a target of winning the tournament. In the 2009 edition, the Zebras lost 1-0 to hosts Zimbabwe in the quarterfinals via a goal from Mthulisi Maphosa in the 88th minute. Zimbabwe went on to win the tournament.

“I want to believe that we’ve gathered enough information which will help prepare for our opponents. The team is in good shape and we have no injury worries,” said Mogae. It is expected that Moemedi ‘Jomo’ Moatlhaping and Jerome ‘JJ’ Ramatlhakwana will use their experience from the past tournaments to harass the opponents’ rearguard. Moatlhaping was in the starting line-up against the Swazis four years ago. The other surviving members in the current squad are captain Mompati Thuma and Ndiyapo Letsholathebe.

Those close to the Isihlangu camp have indicated that they have been in a rebuilding process behind the scenes and they might shock many people in the tournament. Swaziland coach, Valerie Billen, said that they are not in Zambia to make up the numbers but to compete. The Belgian tactician said they are ready to face the Zebras pointing out that their recent CHAN games against Angola were an eye opener. Swaziland captain Jerome Ntshalintshali said that it will not be easy against the Zebras but warned their opponents not to expect an easy game.

Isihlangu are under no pressure and it will be interesting to see how they cope against the Zebras. The Swazis will look up to the experience of Wonder Nhleko for their first win this afternoon.

Kick off for the game is at 5pm.

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