Zebras vs. Eagles-It’s anybody’s game

Injured Ohilwe comes back home

The Zebras Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers game against the Eagles of Mali this Saturday in Bamako, Mali could go either way.

That is if the performance of the two teams in their respective last five games is anything to go by. Before he left for camp in Kenya last week, Zebras head coach Stanley Tshosane expressed serious concern about his charges’ failure to convert goals at the front.

However, the Eagles, who won bronze in this year’s Afcon finals have themselves not been consistent in scoring a convincing number of goals. In their recent games, the Zebras lost 2-0 to the Central African Republic before drawing 1-1 with South Africa in a World cup qualifier game. The Zebras then beat Zimbabwe 1-0 and played to a goalless draw with Lesotho during the Tri-nations tournament held in Molepolole. The Zebras further drew 3-3 with Tanzania and lost 3-1 to Kenya before playing a goalless draw with Uganda at the Molepolole Sports complex a fortnight ago.
These results proved that Tshosane and his charges still have a lot to do in converting goals at the front. In the World Cup qualifiers campaign in June, Mali were beaten 0-1 by Benin and went on to beat Algeria 2-1. Mali’s recent games have proved that their scoring ability is not any better than the Zebras’ who often score a goal or two before adapting a defensive strategy.

Although the Zebras played a competitive game against both Mali and Ghana during the AFCON 2012 finals hosted by Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, the same could not be said about Guinea who mercilessly battered the Zebras 6-1 in a game where many believed the score line went high because the Zebras suddenly wanted to play an attacking game which they are not used to. Therefore, it is an open secret that Tshosane and his charges will seek an early goal and switch to defensive tactics.  

In an interview with BG Sports at his hotel in Kenya before departing for Bomako, Tshosane was optimistic that his charges would bring good results as he is aiming to collect maximum points, with his worst result being a draw.
The Zebras played their last rehearsal match against a Kenyan Premier league side, Khita United, and won the game 1-0 through a 73rrd minute goal scored by Mokgwathi Mokgwathi. In this game, the Zebras were joined by all South African based players except veteran goalkeeper, Modiri Marumo who arrived during the match and striker Jerome Ramatlhakwana who was scheduled to join the team on Wednesday.

Tshosane revealed that during this practice match session against United, he wanted to give all international players an opportunity to play with their home based colleagues. However, he used all the players in camp. However, the most unfortunate thing is that his utility player, George Musa Ohilwe, picked up an injury that forced him to return home. Tshosane said Ohilwe injured his ankle and was ruled out of action for at least three weeks after being accidentally tackled from behind by a United player.
The injured Ohilwe was expected to arrive home on Thursday where an official would accompany him from the Botswana High Commission office in Nairobi.

His injury means the Zebras will have 22 players in Mali if Ramatlhakwana were to join them. He said although he would have loved to have Ohilwe on camp, the show will go on and that his charges vowed to fight for their country in order to bring a good result. Amazingly, a popular international football website, goal.com, have the Zebras as favourites to win the Saturday game with 75% of the readers picking the Zebras and only 25% picking the Eagles. In his arsenal, Tshosane has recalled veteran goal poacher Modiri Marumo, who had announced that he was retiring from international football. However, many Zebras supporters prefer the young and on-form Kabelo Dambe in the goal posts. To score the elusive goals at the front, Tshosane will rely on the South African based attacking midfielder Mogakolodi Ngele; the youngster scored the Zebras’ first goal at the 2012 Afcon final against the Eagles.

Tshosane’s other option in the strike force is Afcon 2012 qualifier top goal scorer  Ramatlhakwana, who has been blowing hot and cold lately. Tshosane’s Middlefield will be missing the likes of Dirang Moloi, Pontsho Moloi and Mascom Top 8 player of the tournament Ntesang Simanyana. The injured winger Phenyo Mongala would have been crucial in the left wing. Mongala’s combination with the ferocious Joel Mogorosi was one of Tshosane’s secret weapons in the2012 Afcon qualifiers. Defensive Midfielder Ofentse Nato and Mompati Thuma will be leading the defence.

The new Eagles coach Frenchman Partrice Carteron will make his debut for Mali against the Zebras on Saturday. Crateron is reported to have called Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra who has also played for Real Madrid. Mali’s arsenal also includes Samaba Diakite from Queens Park Rangers; Modibo Maiga from West Ham and a bevy of other European based players. Meanwhile, there has been serious concern about security due to political instability in Mali.

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 July 2013 16:16

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