The virulent disease in the senior national team, Zebras, is spreading to the junior under 20 team. The Zebras have a tendency of scoring first in most of their games only to crumble when it matters the most, especially in the dying minutes. The under 20s showed the same symptoms when they let the country down at the just ended Council for Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) youth tournament in South Africa.
In the first two games, which they drew and lost to Lesotho and Malawi, respectively, they scored first but lost in the dying minutes of the game. In their one all draw against Lesotho, the young Zebras drew first blood but Lesotho equalised in the second half.
It was even more painful against Malawi where they lost by three goals to two despite taking a two-goal lead before half time. After half time, they failed to defend their healthy lead and Malawi scored three goals to send Botswana packing. The third goal came when the referee was about to blow the final whistle.
Nevertheless, the young Zebras consoled themselves with a 6-2 drubbing of marauding Mauritius. The results against Mauritius, however, still left coach Sthandwa Mogwadi fuming. Mogwadi fired a salvo at the players saying they committed silly blunders that prevented them to proceed to the semifinals. He said he had always warned his boys to be careful in the first and last minutes of each half, but all in vain.
“These boys let the country down, I tried all what I could but they did not listen. It was even frustrating against Malawi because they fought hard and matched them in every position, only to lose in the last minutes. This time around I think we even deserved to go all the way to the finals,” said a disappointed Mogwadi.
But the young Zebras also made a name for themselves, especially against Mauritius. Immediately after half time, Tebogo Sebina was given marching orders for a brawl with a Mauritian player. That was the time when Botswana was still leading 2-1 and people thought Mauritius were going to have an easy ride against Botswana. It was not to be as Botswana made a name for themselves by launching attacks from all angles. Ecco city upcoming striker, Tebogo Sembowa, scored four goals in the game to take his tally to six because he scored against both Malawi and Lesotho. Township Rollers striker, Kaone Molefhe and Jackie Mothatego scored the other two.
Sembowa had a good combination with Molefhe who also mesmerised spectators. Molefhe opened up Mauritius in the central defence while Sembowa did a lot of damage on the left wing. The most memorable goal was the second one in which Sembowa rounded off the Mauritian defence together with the goalkeeper before slotting the ball in.
Mauritius had slippery and quick strikers, but the Botswana defence, led by Mandla Mogadla, stood firm and repelled most of the attacks.
The overall results by the young Zebras means that the country’s poor run in the tournament continues. Most countries including, minnows Lesotho and Madagascar have been to the semifinals before while Botswana is yet to qualify.
On the other hand, Zebras’ poor record of scoring first only to lose at the end can be traced to as way back as the early 90s. Countries like Angola collected three points from Botswana coming from behind. Zebras’ poor record is even appalling in the COSAFA Castle Cup. Since the tournament’s inception in 1997 most countries that played against Botswana, won their games coming from behind.
The most memorable game that Botswana lost when it was not expected to was against Malawi in 2003. Many Batswana thought the Zebras were on their way to their first ever semi-final appearance for the tournament when Malawi equalised with only three minutes to go. It was even painful because Malawi went on to win the game on penalties.
Also in 1998, Tshephiso Molwantwa’s goal against Mozambique counted for nothing. After Molwantwa scored with only twelve minutes to go, Mozambique replied quickly and scored the winning goal with only three minutes to full time.
One game that also left a deep wound in Zebras supporters was against Guinea in both the World and Africa Cup of Nations. Guinea’s danger man, Ousman Bangoura, scored two quick goals when the referee was also about to signal the end of the game. Botswana, on the other hand, scored in the early minutes of the first half. Even African giants, Tunisia, last year banged three goals past Botswana after a first half lead goal from Mogogi Gabonamong.