Thursday, May 30, 2024

Zebras’ face hours of reckoning

The real test for the senior national team, the Zebras begins in a month’s time after they qualified to the group stages of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) series.

Botswana played to a one-all draw against Guinea Bissau and won with an aggregate of 3-1. Two weeks ago, the Zebras won 2-0, which took them to Bissau with a healthy lead.

The Guinea Bissau match came after Zebras also beat Burundi with an aggregate of 1-0 in the first preliminary match. The teams had played to a goalless draw in Burundi and Botswana won by a solitary goal at home.

Botswana is now in group G alongside strong football power houses, Tunisia, Egypt and Senegal.

The Zebras start the crunch ties away on the weekend of September 5-6 against Tunisia. They will play the last qualification match against Senegal in the third week of November.

Botswana has played against Tunisia and Egypt before while it will be the first time they face Senegal. The Teranga Lions, as Senegal are renowned, might be the ones to pose a serious threat to the Zebras because Botswana has always struggled against West African teams.

Against the North African teams, Botswana has always played with all their hearts out, to the extent of bringing positive results.
In 2006, they managed to hold the Pharaohs to a goalles draw at the national stadium, even though they ended up losing by a solitary goal away in Cairo.

The first match against Tunisia will bring back memories of 2010 in July when Zebras did the unexpected. That was a time when the World Cup was still in full swing in South Africa.

Against all odds, Botswana beat Tunisia by a solitary goal, courtesy of Jerome Ramatlhakwana. Zebras would repeat the same feat in Gaborone, also courtesy of Ramatlhakwana to collect a valuable six points.

The good performance by Botswana would also mean that Botswana qualified for their first ever Afcon as they also defeated African giants such as Togo.

However, most of the players that helped Zebras qualify for 2012 Afcon are still there but the technical team is still relatively new in rigorous international football.

It remains to be seen how they will cope with the harsh African conditions. Head coach James Peter Butler came to his senses along the way by calling back renowned experienced players.

At first, he brought mostly new players to the team and had a baptism of fire. He had to make immediate changes and it has since worked well for him.

All of the three opponents the Zebras will face have some big name players in Europe and Botswana would have to thoroughly prepare to entertain any chances of qualifying for the tournament that will be held in Morocco next year.

Fixtures for Botswana ??1.Tunisia vs Botswana (Away) – 5/6 September 2014??2.Botswana vs Senegal (Home) – 10th September 2014??3.Botswana vs Egypt (Home) -10/11 October 2014??4.Egypt vs Botswana (Away) – 15th October 2014??5.Botswana vs Tunisia (Home) -14/15 November 2014??6.Senegal vs Botswana (Away) – 19th November 2014


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