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Zebras face Zimbabwe dilemma

Publishing Date : 05 November, 2019


Good experience, more ambition. Coach Adel Amrouche is such a good dreamer and disciplinarian that he could almost write the headlines for the media himself.

In four words, the Zebras head coach summed up the looming task with such passion and seriousness whenever he calls his squad.  Since his arrival, he has always gone for youth and talent but he never forgot maturity and experience. But the average age of his group of players is only 24, which is the youngest in the last 10 years for Botswana. Proof of the depth that Botswana has, Amrouche has suspended some big names including Thero Setsile, Mothusi Cooper, OnkabetseMakgantai and Mothusi Johnson.

Amrouche might come to regret some of those decisions, but he had his reasons. The quartet is believed to be difficult to control and the coach might have lost patience quickly. However, the Zebras mentor is optimistic that his squad will reach AFCON finals to be held in Cameroon in 2021. This is even backed by the fact that two teams from each group will automatically qualify.

With this in mind, it was also pleasing to hear the coach acknowledge the lack of cohesion in the attacking third and pledging to improve on the game against Egypt, where he narrowly lost by a goal to nil. The evidence might point to a conservative squad constrained by Stone Age play and their thinking. Under former coach Peter Butler, Lebogang Ditsile appeared as an excellent footballer, made his reputation as an unanswerable force in the midfield. Kabelo Seakanyeng is overlapping in the side territory. For the Zebras, he plays on his own, a more withdrawn role that often exposes him.

With the Zebras’ midfield core so deep, the creative responsibility falls to wide men who are essentially denied any opportunity to apply sustained pressure because they do not see enough of the ball. By extension, the center-forward is condemned to 90 minutes running in the wrong direction chasing down opposition full backs, this has been the story for Zebras even at the historic AFCON 2012 participation. But there are indications that Amrouche is looking to alter his tactics a little bit. The man of the match often time displayed by Seakanyeng, gelling well with strikers inspires faith that a more improved attacking scheme is being crafted.

However, continuing calls of attacking football are still pouring. There is need to identify this as a deeply fulfilling viewing experience. The dominant school of thought still lays the blame for Botswana’s seemingly travails at the quality of players at Amrouche’s disposal. Yet Onkabetse Makgantai, when given a chance continues to show composure and slotting home with both feet that there is technique in his game. But the question still looms; will Mogakolodi Tsotso Ngele bounce to his intriguing form on time? Before he experienced a late dip in form, he teased teams on his own.

He may not have the same explosive pace, but the league former goal scorer, now with Gaborone United, Thatayaone Kgamanyane has the necessary authority and if he lives to attain his form together with Omaata Kebatho or Joel Mogorosi, they might be the heartbeat of Zebras at this AFCON qualifying edition.

But first, there is Zimbabwe on the way. This is a country that has qualified for the last two editions of AFCON finals and Amrouche knows that it will take a lot to beat Zimbabwe in their back yard. A country with unmatched talent in Southern Africa. Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona Marvelous Nakamba… A win is a far-fetched dream, but it is ‘a must’ because Algeria- the African Kings- who will come after Zimbabwe -are a more difficult opponent.