The senior ladies football team competing at the ongoing 2019 edition of the COSAFA Championships staged in South Africa made history by reaching the tournament semi -finals this week.
Botswana advanced to the next round of the tournament after holding Zambia to a goalless draw this past Tuesday. Both teams advanced to the knockout stage with Botswana placed as best runner up.
The local ladies have indeed delivered on the assignment at hand, which was that they advance from the group stages this year. For the first time ever, Botswana came close to reaching the semi finals last year but crashed out in the dying minutes of their game against South Africa.
Despite the core of the senior national team being away in Slovakia preparing for the Olympic qualifiers, the promoted senior team has put a splendid show in South Africa. To this end, the team has not conceded but has four goals scored in three matches. The senior team began their campaign on a high note against Namibia, ending the match with a 1-0 score line. The local side went on to humble Mauritius with a 3-0 drubbing and ending the group stages with a goalless draw against Zambia.
The Mares will face off with Zambia once again in the Semi finals while the hosts who are also the tournament defending champions, South Africa, will play Zimbabwe to determine finalists.
It will be interesting to see how the local ladies respond to their first ever semi-final appearance or if they have drawn inspiration from the men team, the Zebras. The Zebras reached the COSAFA finals recently but failed to bring it home, also suffering defeat to Chipolopolo, Zambia. The women final will be played this coming Saturday.
Meanwhile, the under 20 ladies have bowed out of the competition with two losses and one win. The young Mares could only manage a royal exit by beating Eswatini 3-0 on their last game of the group stages. However, it was not enough to save the day as the team was humiliated in their opening games against Zambia and Tanzania.
The Zebras will be expected to maintain the winning spirit set by local netball team alive when they host Bafana Bafana at the Francistown Sports Complex.
The tournament is on its fifth season and the nation is hopeful the local boys will keep the fire burning. The newly appointed national team coach Major David Bright will this weekend lead Zebras against its rivals in the COSAFA region. The newly appointed coach pleaded for support from football loving community as he is till building a team.
The first CHAN competition was staged in Ivory Coast in 2009 and the Democratic Republic of the Congo won the inaugural competition. The teams were increased to 16 at the second tournament held in Sudan in 2011, which was won by Tunisia. The Zebras followers will be hopeful the local lads will continue to impress at the second city after stumbling over Mauritania in an Afcon qualifier.
The two teams played 10 times with Bafana dominating the statics. Zebras lost 6 of the 10 encounters and 4 draws since 1993 when South Africa was readmitted to FIFA membership.
The coach recalled Thabo Motang to his technical team and they called four goal minders for their first camp. The Mascom top 8 winning goalkeeper Anthony Gouws of Jwaneng Galaxy finally received a much deserved call up to the team. Michael James from the rookies Black Forest also impressed the coaches. Gaborone United goalkeeper Goitseone Phoko returned to the squad after battling with injury a few years ago.
Bright and Mogwadi rewarded their faithful servants with national team call up. The zebras ignored the hardship Police XI endured to sustain their BPL status, calling four players in Leririma, Senwelo, Gadibolae and Moyo.
The back line will be marshalled by three Rollers players –Mosha Gaolaolwe, the 2016/17 player of the season nominee Simisane Mathumo and Bogosi Kaekwe, Thabo Leinanyane of Galaxy, Kaelo Kgaswane from Security Systems, Onkabetse Seforo of BDF XI and Letsweletse Leririma.
The midfielders are Police XI stars Letlhogonolo Senwelo and the hardworking Tapiwa Gadibolae, Richard Legwaila -BDF XI, Lemogang Maswena -Orapa United, the 2016/17 player of the season Lemponye Tshireletso has also been rewarded with captain’s arm band, Thero Setsile -Jwaneng Galaxy.
Bright brought a youngster Godiraone Modingwane from his former club Morupule Wanderers, Tumelo Mazebedi -Security Systems, Thatayaone Kgamanyane -Black Forest.
The attackers are Thabang Sesinyi -Jwaneng Galaxy, the GU striking partnership of Tumisang Orebonye and Kabelo Seakanyeng, the ever hustling Hendrick Moyo from Police XI.
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.
A tough but decisive assignment awaits the Zebras away this weekend as they travel to Kampala to face the Cranes at Nelson Mandela Stadium in the Ugandan capital in an AFCON 2017 Group D qualifier. Both sides want to start on the right foot by collecting three maximum points to be early pacesetters in their tricky group that includes the Comoros Islands and Burkina Faso.
However, the odds will be stacked high against the Zebras whose objective is to qualify for the 2017 biennial showpiece in Gabon. Zebras’ headcoach Peter Butler has made drastic changes to the squad that competed in the last AFCON qualifiers. The likes of Lemponye Tshireletso , Jerome Ramatlhakwane and Boitumelo Mafoko will be conspicuous by their absence while core members of the Cranes in their previous campaigns will also be missing, among others, Captain Andrew Mwesigwa, Daniel Sserunkuma and Emma Okwi as coach Milutin Sredojevic has injected new blood into his team.
Butler has promoted a lot of Under-23 players for this encounter after many of his players were given a fair run in the COSAFA Cup assignment that was recently held in South Africa where they were knocked out in the semi-finals. Over the past few years, the Cranes have developed stronger plumes under Micho, for the first time qualifying for the CHAN tournament where they soared to later confront Ghana, Guinea and Togo in the last AFCON qualifiers. The novices from Udzima wa Komori proved to be a force to reckon with when they drew 1-1 with Ghana’s Black Stars four days before thrashing Guinea 2-0 at Nelson Mandela Stadium.
All these sides were touted as the favorites against the Cranes only to be left licking their wounds, with Uganda eventually missing out on three points. It will not be the first time the Zebras face the Cranes - the last time being when Uganda won 3-1 in an international friendly in preparation for a clash with South Africa in a World Cup qualifier in Durban. But the Cranes are blessed to have Micho as headcoach; he is one of the Orlando Pirates fame who is highly respected on the African continent after also being at the helm of powerhouses like Ethopia’s St. George. There was also a time he was mentioned as a candidate to replace former Zebras’ coach Stanley Tshosane but ended up losing out on the job because of the BFA NEC that was divided on his appointment.
The epic clash on Saturday will have a bearing on the ambitions of Butler, who is mandated to take the Zebras to Gabon in 2017. On paper, the Cranes are better than Burkina Faso, being a highly tactical and physical side that has been compared to Senegal. They have players who have been on top of their game, one of them being Mamelodi Sundowns shot stopper Dennis Onyango who guided his side to a second spot finish and a Nedbank Cup triumph. Another is the bulky but lethal forward, Jefrey Massa. Other key members in the Udzima wa Komori squad feature in various clubs across Africa, especially Tanzania, while others do service in Greece.
However, despite the threat the Cranes frontline poses to the Zebras, glovesman Kabelo Dambe - who is the Numero Uno goal minder for Platinum Stars in South Africa - is not fazed. “Our aim is to qualify for 2017 AFCON,” Dambe says. “This game will gauge our seriousness in qualifying for the finals. The Cranes are hungrier than Burkina Faso, that’s for sure. But we have a good team. What we will need are our supporters. The coach needs them too.” The international experiences of Ofentse Nato, Mogakolodi Ngele and the captaincy of Joel Mogorosi should put this one in the bag in Kampala on Saturday.
The Zebras have been drawn in Group D for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers following the draw held today in Cairo.
At the event, Gabon was named as the hosts of the 2017 AFCON finals beating Ghana and aAlgeria to the hosting rights of the 31st edition of Africa Cup of Nations. Gabon co-hosted the 2012 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations with neighbours, Equatirial Guinea.
Meanwhile, Botswana which is ranked 30th in Africa will face Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Comoros in Group D. Burkina Faso and Uganda both rank above Botswana at 19th and 20th in Africa respectively. The Comoros is only ranked at 47 out of 54 in Africa.
Only the group winners and two best second placed teams will qualify for the finals to be held in Gabon.
Results of AFCON 2017 qualifiers draw
Group A: Tunisia, Togo, Liberia Djibouti
Group B: DR Congo, Angola, Central African Republi, Madagascar
Group C: Mali, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, South Sudan
Group D: Burkina Faso, Uganda, Botswana, Comoros
Group E: Zambia, Congo, Kenya, Guinea Bissau
Group F: Cape Verde, Morocco, Libya, Sao Tome
Group G: Nigeria, Egypt, Tanzania, Chad
Group H: Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Mauritius
Group I: Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Gabon
Group J: Algeria, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Seychelles
Group K: Senegal, Niger, Namibia, Burundi
Group L: Guinea, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Swaziland
Group M: Cameroon, South Africa, Gambia