The 2014 World Cup qualifiers resume in earnest this weekend and The Zebras of Botswana trot into the pitch with one thing in mind – to be the first team to beat The Walias of Ethiopia who are the only team in Group A yet to lose a match. The two meet this Saturday at the Lobatse stadium.
In their first round encounter in Addis Ababa earlier this year, Ethiopia beat Botswana 1-0 to remain top of the group that also has South Africa and Central Africa Republic. In that closely-contested encounter, second half substitute Getaneh Kebede scored the late winner in the 88th minute of a game where the Zebras missed countless chances. Kebede had replaced midfielder Adane Girma at the start of the second half to do the damage that now sees the Zebras in a position where they have to win all their remaining encounters. That game, however, is now history. The Zebras are ready to cause an upset on The Walias who are known for playing possession football with lots of speed.
The Zebras are bubbling with confidence that they will reverse the first leg results especially that they are still mathematically in the competition despite rooted at the bottom of their group with one point compared to the seven of their opponents. The Zebras coach Tshosane did not want to comment much, but he too is confident that by the end of Saturday, the Zebras would have improved their chances of eventually topping the group.He could not be drawn into discussing his starting line up or approach for the encounter, but he remains optimistic that his charges will bring a good result come Saturday.
The local side is fresh from playing a one-all draw against Egypt on Tuesday night in Cairo and the draw might just bring into the team, a sense of belief.
Egyptian coach Bob Bradley has since declared that his team’s performance against Botswana was below par, but The Zebras will take heart in knowing that they played the match without having had a rest. They had arrived from an all-night flight that Tuesday morning, and with no benefit of a training session, went straight to face The Pharaohs who fell behind after 5 minutes when a blunder by veteran under-pressure defender Wael Gomaa allowed Jerome Ramatlhakwane to open the scoring. It is without doubt the Zebras will continue from where they left, this time knowing very well that unlike in Cairo, there is a lot at stake. And the only way is to beat Ethiopia. Tshosane has made it an open secret that he wants to win all the remaining games because this is the only way in which the Zebras could improve their FIFA ratings which have been slowly going worse over the months.
To beat his opponents, he might opt for attacking and possession football though with a lot of caution. The home ground edge could come in handy as the locals try to forget the heartache of losing in Addis Ababa after missing sitter chances.
In his arsenal, Tshosane has the speedy and crafty Phenyo Mongala, the industrious Joel Mogorosi and goalpoacher Jerome Ramatlhakwane. Also at his disposal is the nimble-footed pair of Magokolodi Ngele and action-thirsty Dirang Moloi, as well as Tebogo Semboa. He is also spoilt for choice in the middle where there is the likes of Alphonse Modisaotsile, Ofentse Nato, Galabgwe Moyana and Jackie Mothathego
Tshosane has a stable defence composed of the likes of Ndiapo Letsholathebe who could not make the Addis trip, but is now back in the line up alongside Mompati Thuma, Tshepo Motlhabankwe and Pako Lekgari. Kabelo Dambe who matures with every game, is expected to start. These backliners however, will have their hands full trying to thwart the dangerous moves expected from the likes of Khalid Mesfin-Mulugeta, Abdul Wali Aman, Abdusalam Abas Fuad Ibrahim and David Beshah.
BDF XI Coach Louis Setshwane who has been following Zebras at their recent practice sessions believes that best way for the Zebras to approach this crucial encounter is to go for an attacking system in order to outclass the Ethiopians who are likely to be looking for a draw. “The good thing is, we have players who have all what it takes to beat Ethiopia, be it speed, ball control and composure,” he said.