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Zebras’ ranking crucial for seeding at AFCON finals – posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com

posted by www.equatorialguineaonline.com

It was in December 2010 and January that the Zebras scaled the heights of the FIFA Coca-Cola rankings. Botswana was ranked 53rd in January and in February dropped to 54th. But since February, the Zebras’ ranking has been on a slide and currently we are placed 78 on the FIFA Coca-Cola rankings. For a team that since 1992 has never been among the top 80, it would look like a big score but the 25 points lost since January is a big source of concern. Yes the Zebras have long qualified for the AFCON finals to be co-hosted by Equatorial Guinea and Gabon but the writing is clearly on the wall that there is still much work to be done if Botswana is not to be embarrassed next January. As things stand there is a big chance that Botswana could be the lowest ranked come January but yet topping its group.

That would be the irony of all ironies, a group leader that when put on the world map drops to the tail of those that struggled to qualify.   So far only Angola and Mali are ranked below Botswana but I expect them to leapfrog the Zebras as well. Botswana’s undoing is that we have been playing teams that are ranked below us, hence we have been gathering few points. Equally these teams have not done much to enhance our status as a great footballing nation. It is either we play Namibia or Lesotho who are always readily available but football wise do not add much value to our cause, as their leagues are no way better than ours. This means that during the draw, despite being the group leaders, Botswana will not be seeded but instead will be nobody – hence we can expect a tough draw for the group stages of the finals. I am inclined to think that we will either have Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria or Burkina Faso in our group. The situation is made worse by the fact that the Zebras have never qualified for the finals before.

What then should the Zebras do before the finals? For me there is no better training place than Brazil for the Zebras. Prior to their Togo game, the Zebras visited the High Performance Centre in Pretoria. What people however greatly overlook is that the real test is on the pitch and I have difficulty when we play South African based clubs who, apart from better body conditioning, football wise, are not that better than us hence we must have learnt very little.

Those who usually watch Brazilian or South American club football will attest to the intensity of the competition in those countries. Their physical fitness, athleticism, aggression, technical ability and tactical awareness far surpass those of players in South Africa. I, therefore, want the Zebras to revisit its training programme. We need to play those Brazilian clubs like Flumminesse or Sao Paulo just to name a few.

The Zebras can only get better if they can play against the best and be really exposed than to play teams that can give us a false sense of security. And, frankly speaking I was not surprised by the result in Togo, in the first leg in Gaborone, the ball retention by Togo was better than that of Botswana and I am of the view that one of our goals was more to do with luck than anything or put the other way a silly mistake from the Togo defence. Besides Togo struggled to play at the small University of Botswana (UB) stadium hence the Zebras will have to know how to use a small pitch and a big pitch. One of the major weaknesses of the Zebras is the inability to play at high tempo but with accurate passes. And, having said that we need to play a few friendly games against some big guns so that we do not go to the AFCON finals as the lowest ranked team in Africa because this could create a psychological blow for us if commentators and journalists harp this time and again.  I also do not expect anything from Equatorial Guinea, as they probably will be the weakest team to ever host a tournament. And, like I once said our aim at next year’s final should be to give the team the necessary exposure and training for the 2014 FIFA World Cup to be hosted by Brazil. This also now brings us to the coach of the Zebras for the 2014 world Cup.

This decision should be made now rather than wait for our performance at the AFCON finals because I am of the view that the Botswana Football Association (BFA) knows what Stanley Tshosane can do or not do. So it’s decision time as far as future Zebras coach is concerned. I also hope that this will not be viewed as a distraction by the powers that be but a wake up call that the association should plan forward. Issues of sentiments should however be set aside and a just decision made.

Tshosane and the association ought to come up with a preparation and training programme that can close some of the weaknesses in the team. Besides we have the advantage that we have already finished our campaign hence we have to utilize that advantage to the maximum especially that we will be making our first appearance.

Equally Tshosane has to expand his technical team by selecting someone who will be doing the observation/analysis for him because he will not be able to cover all his opponents. Having said that the qualifying games have set up all sorts of intrigue as to who will make it and who is not likely to make it.

Countries like South Africa, Nigeria, Cameron, Tunisia, Morocco and believe you me Ghana are not yet guaranteed a place and are banking on the Almighty to intervene on their behalf. Time and again football commentators as well as technicians have a tendency to undermine other teams and only focus on the big guns. Who ever thought that reigning champions, Egypt could be propping up their group. Unfortunately South Africa seemed to concentrate on the internal decision of the Egyptians such that they took off focus on their own preparations and the end result was a surprise 2-1 loss to Niger.

Surely the winds of change have blown across the football world save for a country by the name of San Marino. I wonder whether this country has a league and where it gets its coaches because for some years now, the country has always generously donated points to its rivals and with big margins for that matter.  It’s like the country only prepares its national team on the eve of the game and I am still to be convinced if it is adding any value because there is little improvement. One would have expected that because it is placed in the most financial stable continental body UEFA, it would not struggle to have a competitive league or buy quality experienced coaches and players.

All Africa Games
Good luck to the All Africa Game team and I am happy that the Ministry of Education and Skills Development have seen the need to release the team manager for Botswana – Tebogo Segaise. I still pray that we should move politics from our places of work because by its very nature politics is blind and can trample on other people’s rights. This woman is on a national call and I was baffled by the initial decision. We should always pray for ourselves not to be vengeful for vengeance is just destructive, nothing else.

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