Sunday, November 1, 2020

Zebras up against Bafana Bafana again

The shocking defeat Botswana meted out to South Africa last year will be tested to prove it was not a fluke when the two teams meet in the Council for Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) semi-finals next month. In a draw that was conducted on Friday in Johannesburg, Botswana has been pitted against South Africa at Germiston Stadium while Zambia will lock horns with Mozambique on September 29.

The meeting between Botswana and South Africa will be the fifth since South Africa’s re-admission into the international soccer by FIFA. Of the five games, four were in the COSAFA Castle Cup and once in a friendly game. Even though Botswana won last year ‘s COSAFA game 6-5 after a penalty shoot out, they are now facing a team that has a lot of steam because they are preparing for the 2010 World Cup which they will be hosting. South Africa is also under the tutelage of former World Cup winning coach from Brazil, Carlos Alberto Parreira. Parreira won the World Cup with Brazil in 1994 and also took it to the quarterfinals of last year’s World Cup tournament.

If history is anything to go by, South Africa has an advantage because they have defeated Botswana in three of the four games the countries played. South Africa first defeated Botswana 2-0 in a friendly encounter in 1992. Seven years latter they won 2-1 in a COSAFA game. Despite Botswana’s lead in the rain drenched first half, South Africa came back strongly in the second half and scored two goals.

South Africa repeated the feat in 2002 winning a tightly contested game 5-4 on penalties after a goalless stalemate. Botswana then caused a huge upset last year which is still haunting South Africa. South Africa brought a contingent of their professional players while Botswana only used their home-based players and fought hard to force a goalless draw that led to the penalties. Botswana then scored all their five regulation penalties and the sudden death one. Thanks to goalkeeper Modiri Marumo who sent the whole country into a frenzy. Botswana would once again bank on Marumo because he is the one who actually engineered Botswana’s qualification to the semifinals. He saved two crucial penalties against power houses Angola to ensure Botswana’s victory.

South Africa, on the other hand, is taking the game seriously because they even spied when Botswana hosted Angola. Assistant coach of the team, Pitso Mosimane, was among the multitudes of people watching Botswana crushing Palanca Negras. What can also be taken note of is that all the games the team played were hosted by Botswana and it would be the first time the two countries play in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Township Rollers coach, Daniel Nare, told The Sunday Standard that Botswana stands a chance to qualify for the finals. He said even though South Africa will have home ground advantage, Botswana have proven to be good fighters whether home or away.

“South Africa is no longer as strong as they used to be and they are currently in the rebuilding process. The team is also preparing for 2010 World Cup and this definitely put them under pressure. I am of the view that we have nothing to lose compared to South Africa. Also most of our players have been together for a long time and South Africa should be aware,” Nare said.

Nare added that the game should not be used to judge coach Colywn Rowe. He said even the players should not be put under undue pressure because they have done a lot for the country. Nare hoped that Rowe and the boys will take things easy and put aside their last year’s victory.

Botswana has never qualified for the finals of COSAFA and this year’s semi-finals qualifications was the second in a row. South Africa, however, won the COSAFA Cup only once.

Zambia, on the other hand, will square off against Mozambique in a preceding game that will start at 14 00hrs. The two teams will be meeting for the sixth time. Zambia has won all their past five games. Mozambique has had a bad run in the competition for the past years and is looking to redeem their seemingly lost pride. Zambia might be favourites on paper but must not take Mozambique lightly. Mozambique has already sent shocking signals by knocking off three time COSAFA winners and Southern Africa’s power house, Zimbabwe. Zambia is also renowned for taking the COSAFA games very seriously.

The finals will be played on October 27 in a place yet to be confirmed.

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