On paper, Zebras’ chances to qualify for next year’s AFCON 2017 finals scheduled for Gabon may look bleak. However, the Zebras still have a fight left in them.
This Sunday the Zebras face the Stallions of Burkina Faso in Ouagadougou in what is expected to be a thrilling encounter that could go either way. Under their prodigal coach, Paulo Duarte who took the reigns from German born Gernot Rohr, the Stallions are expected to leave no stone unturned. Duarte is expected to take on the Zebras with an arsenal of robust Burkinabe team, which boasts mostly of international players.
Currently, the Stallions are joint Group D leaders with the Cranes of Uganda as both teams are tied at 10 points while the Zebras are galloping behind with only six points. Behind the local lads is Comoros with only three points to complete group D log standings. It is against this background that an epic battle will ensue.
Victory for Burkina Faso will make them outright winners of the group if the Cranes stumble in their own backyard when they host stubborn Comoros. An upset against the Zebras in their own backyard and a gallant fight against the same opponent away in Francistown can prove testimony to their other narrow losses away.
The Zebras in their first leg encounter at the Francistown Sports Complex defeated Burkina Faso by a solitary goal courtesy of influential Captain Joel Mogorosi. The encounter, dubbed category A in the continent, proved one of the biggest upset in the qualifiers basing on the squad Burkina Faso had fielded. However, this weekend there is even more at stake for both sides, especially for their coaches.
Zebra’s headcoach Peter Butler’s ambitions were to lead the Zebras to the 2017 AFCON finals. With this encounter being the only competitive and international assignment left to solidify his legacy, Butler has everything to fight for. The weekend game will be a litmus test to convince the new BFA leadership that he is still capable of leading the Zebras to the Promised Land. Moreover it remains to be seen whether Butler’s contract, which ends early next year, will be extended.
Winning the weekend fixture will put Butler in the good books of the new BFA leadership. On the other hand, there is national pride at stake and FIFA rankings to work hard for as a win might see the local boys surging in their rankings. On the other hand, Duarte will be eyeing a second return to the African prestigious tournament.