Group D – No Walk in the Park for Zebras

| April 14, 2015

The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) draw conducted in Egypt last week placed Botswana in group D along with Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Comoros Islands.

Since the draw was announced, there has been debate that the Zebras were in an easy group and should qualify for the finals in Gabon.

However, in her analysis of the group, BOPA reporter, Anastacia Sibanda, warns that there is nothing like underdogs and people should not think that the Zebras will have an easy ride. Group winners and two best placed runner-ups would qualify for the finals.

Comoros are one of the teams tagged as underdogs simply because they have never qualified for the AFCON finals.

In the 2012 qualifiers, they were in Group C together with Zambia, Libya asa well as Mozambique and they finished bottom of the group with one point only. From six games they lost five, drew one and never tested victory.

The Indian Ocean islanders, like other countries, have been trying to improve their football. Although they are currently ranked 186 in the world, it would be a grave mistake for people to underestimate the Coelacanths, since they have capable players who ply their trade in France.

Formed in 1979, their football association only joined the Confederation of African Football (CAF) in 2003, and became a FIFA member in 2005. They have played against the Zebras once in an international friendly in 2009 which ended in a goalless draw.

The second country in the group, Uganda, are not new in the competition. Ranked 72 in the world, the Cranes would not be a push over. They are 13 times CECAFA Cup champions and four times runners-up.

In the AFCON 2012 qualifiers, they were in Group J with Angola, Kenya, and Guinea-Bissau, where they finished second, winning three, drawing two, and losing one match out of six. Uganda are a g team and recently beat Africa’s power house, Nigeria 1-0 in a friendly game.

Some of their players ply their trade in countries such as South Africa, Iceland and Albania and therefore any team in group D should take them for granted at their own peril.

As for Burkina Faso, the Stallions are no doubt the group D favourites and they have experienced players in the likes of Alain Trore, Jonathan Pitroipa and Aristide Bance.

In 2013, they nearly won the competition, but were beaten by Nigeria 1-0 in the final courtesy of Sunday Mba’s goal in a game that was played at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa.

At least 99 per cent of their players are based in the professional leagues in Europe and have participated in AFCON finals on several occasions. They hosted the tournament in 1998 when they finished on fourth position.

Ranked 66 in the world, the Burkinabe are known for the aggressive style of play, therefore all teams in group D should be wary of the Stallions. They take the competition very seriously, and fired Belgian coach Paul Put after the team failed to go past the group stages of the 2015 AFCON.

The Burkinabe Football Federation has roped in German-born Frenchman Gernot Rhor as their new coach, and it remains to be seen if he would take the team to the finals.

As for The Zebras, they only managed to make their maiden AFCON appearance in the 2012 tournament finals co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. During the 2012 qualifiers, the Zebras surprised many when they finished at the top of their group with 17 points, winning five, drawing two and losing one under Stanley Tshosane.

The Zebras failed to impress at the finals and Botswana Football Association replaced Tshosane with Peter Butler. Butler has introduced young players to the senior national team, and if given chance, he can guide the Zebras to the finals.

The nation must support the Zebras and revive the national team supporter’s branches, which can travel with the team to offer support. Responding to the draw, Butler said: “It’s an interesting draw, lots of travelling but it’s not really at the forefront of my mind as I’m concentrating on COSAFA and CHAN.”

He said Botswana has a young team now, therefore they would be focussing on preparing the players tactically and mentally for the challenges that lie ahead.

He said the COSAFA and CHAN tournaments offered great opportunity for young players to play against some very good teams in the not too distant future and gain invaluable experience.

“It would be nice if Batswana realised we are a developing football nation and have lots of potential. I am a coach who believes in giving young players a chance and developing young players for the U23s and senior national team,” he said. Butler said it was imperative that people had patience with young players.

Source : BOPA

Source : Botswana Daily News

Category: Sports

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