All eyes will be on Ghetto this evening as the Zebras go to war with the Warriors of Zimbabwe with a place at AFCON 2022 very much up for grabs.
Victory in the north for Adel Amarouche’s troops would be a giant step towards qualification for the biggest tournament in African football.
When they met in the reverse fixture, on a hot summer’s day in Harare back in November 2019, there was nothing to separate the two sides. Lacking in thrills, a drab encounter ended 0-0.
A close contest is once again expected.
In an extremely tight qualifying group, just two points separate Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia. All three are masters of their own destiny.
Speaking to Voice Sport ahead of Thursday’s clash, local pundit Molefhi Obenne explained that Botswana/Zimbabwe is a rivalry steeped in history.
“For the nine games these nations faced off since 2010, you can clearly separate them but Botswana has drastically improved their performance against Zimbabwe. As for the upcoming qualifier, it will be anybody’s match,” said Obenne, who admitted the lack of domestic football in Botswana in the last year could prove the difference.
“A vast number of Zebras players have been inactive as there has not been any league action due to the outbreak of Covid-19 for almost a year now while Zimbabwe has a pool of players who are plying their trade in different competitive leagues.”
Insisting Zim will start as favourites, Obenne warned our northern neighbours to underestimate Bots at their peril.
“A good result can come for a team that goes to a match as underdog. Maybe that is what Botswana must count on but we should expect an entertaining match,” he said.
The absence of star trio: Mothusi Cooper (suspended), Kabelo Seakanyeng and Tumisang Orebonye (both stranded in Morocco) has also come as a blow to the Zebras.
Another respected analyst, City Keagakwa predicted the game would decide who joins already-qualified Algeria for a berth in Cameroon.
“For Zebras it is a must win, the same goes to Zimbabwe, they played to a goalless draw in the first leg of this encounter, but this time something must give.
“What makes this encounter extra exciting is Amarouche’s tactical approach to matches. He has built his team to be of a defensive side which makes it difficult for them to concede goals hence Zimbabwe should be aware of that even though it’s a star-studded side,” he said.
Keagakwa added that with no fans allowed in the ground, home advantage will count for little.
“Unfortunately for Zebras, the 12th player will not work in their favour as supporters are still not allowed in the stadia.”
He further urged the local lads to focus fully on the Zim match and not to think ahead to the Algeria meeting.
“Beating Zimbabwe should be at the forefront of every player’s mind before thinking of snatching a point against a weaker Algeria side,” said Keagakwa.
The Zebras take on the reigning African champions in their own backyard on Monday 29 March, bringing an end to their qualifying campaign. Whether it ends in tears or delight is still to be decided!