Zebras return to familiar hunting ground
By Bakang Mhaladi
GABORONE – The Botswana national football side, the Zebras return to their favourite Francistown Sports Complex to face Mauritania in a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier this weekend.
The Zebras were last in competitive action at home mid last year, when they fell 2-1 to Uganda, a defeat which spelt doom for their 2017 AFCON hopes.
In five matches, the national team lost only once at the Francistown Sports Complex, now declared the home of the Zebras. They have beaten top sides, Burkina Faso and Mali, to go with other victories against Comoros and Eritrea.
The Zebras have played only four times since their match against Uganda but have been fine tuning their preparations in Morocco where they played and lost 2-0 to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday.
They flew back to Botswana on Tuesday and immediately headed to Francistown where other squad members joined in. Four players were turned back in Johannesburg on their way to Morocco due to visa complications, but they will join the rest of the team in Francistown.
Members of the victorious new league champions, Township Rollers side were excused from the Morocco trip but are in contention for the Saturday afternoon kick-off.
Mauritania finalized preparations in Lesotho and were expected to jet into the country on Thursday.
They are ranked above the Zebras in the FIFA rankings at number 104, while the hosts are down at number 113.
Mauritania presents a banana skin for a confident Zebras, who know little of their opponents.
Briton, Peter Butler is expected to throw in a number of youngsters as Botswana begins their quest for only their second AFCON finals appearance. Their only appearance came in 2012, and is fast becoming distant memory.
Butler can call on the experience of Ofentse Nato, Kabelo Dambe, Lemponye Tshireletso, Lesego Galenamotlhale and Joel Mogorosi while there is the exciting Lebogang Ditsile in midfielder and Kabelo Seakanyeng out wide.